Cyber criminals stole more than £1billion last year

UK Cyber-crime unit issues urgent “ransomware” warning

Cyber criminals stole more than £1billion from people in Britain last year, according to figures released by the government.

More than one in six people admit to having lost upwards of £500 online as a result of having their card details stolen - amounting to £4billion overall.

Some of the commonest scams include fake retail websites, which masquerade as legitimate sites such as

'Phishing' scams have also been on the rise; these involve criminals trying to extract passwords and personal information - which can be used to get access to bank accounts or log in to shopping websites - usually based on spam emails.

The government's figures reveal that only 57 per cent of people check that a website is secure before making a purchase online, and that two thirds of people fail to install security software on new equipment. 11million new devices - phones, tablets or computers - were received in Britain this Christmas.

To see whether a site is genuine and secure, look for a padlock or key symbol either next to the web address in your browser, or at the bottom of the window. If you think a link you've clicked on might have taken you to a fake site, close it and type in the address of the site you want manually.

The government today is launching a new campaign to combat cyber-crime and promote safe behaviour online. The Cyberstreetwise campaign asks people to remember five key steps to online security:

  • Use a strong, memorable password. Less than a third of people use a complex password for their online accounts.
  • Install anti-virus software on new devices.
  • Check your privacy settings on social media. Thieves can find personal information on unsecured social media accounts - sich as maiden names or pet's names - which are commonly used as 'secret questions' to re-set passwords.
  • Shop safely online. Check retail sites are secure before entering your card details.
  • Download software updates and patches when prompted. They may seem a pointless hindrance, but they are designed to fix loopholes in browsers that can be exploited by hackers.

More tips and resources are available at the Cyberstreetwise website.

Security Minister James Brokenshire said: 'The internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise. It has created a wealth of opportunities, but with these opportunities there are also threats. As a government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in the world.

‘However, by taking a few simple steps while online the public can keep cyber criminals out and their information safe. Cyber Streetwise is an innovative new campaign that will provide everyone with the knowledge and confidence to make simple and effective changes to stay safe online.’

The campaign is part of the government's National Cyber Security Programme, which aims to combat all forms of online crime. Cyberstreetwise centres around encouraging the same levels of caution and common sense online that you would use on the high street.

Internet security experts Symantec are supporting the campaign. Simon Moor, Vice President for UK and Ireland said: “The launch today of the Cyberstreetwise campaign is very much welcomed and supported by Symantec.  The Internet is an integral part of our daily lives in the UK, and we believe that there is a need for further education among consumers and small businesses on the topics of cyber security and data protection. Public awareness campaigns such as this are vital in helping to bring today’s digital threats to life.

“Online threats are consistently evolving, however people can be lulled into a sense of false security by the sheer ubiquity of connected technology leaving themselves open to being tricked into downloading malware, or cybercriminals accessing their personal data.

“Even those tech-savvy people can benefit from a regular reassessment of our usage of web connected devices. This is why Symantec is supporting Cyberstreetwise through the provision of information to the site as well as communications to our staff and customers.”