On the tube on my way into work last week I noticed an advert for the government’s Cyber Streetwise Campaign. At first I had to do a double take, in amongst the adverts for Match.com and the Belgravia Hairloss Centre it was a bit surprising to see a poster about cybercrime. But then it occurred to me that the tube, in amongst a load of consumer adverts, was the perfect location to place the poster as it gave across a very clear message – cybercrime affects everyone.
The campaign has received a bit of a mixed reception among the security industry. While most agree it’s worthwhile, many have argued that it’s nothing new and has been done before. However, given that cybercrime is at an all-time high, I think that a bit of consumer-aimed cyber-education is a great thing.
I receive between 10 and 12 phishing emails a day at work, my personal inbox receives about 30 spam emails a day and I’ve lost count of the number of Nigerian kings that have asked me to keep their millions safe while they try to flee their country for political reasons. Obviously all these emails get swiftly deleted and forgotten about, but I often wonder if I only know to do that because I work in security and can instantly recognise them as scams. If that’s the case, what happens to the consumers who have absolutely no knowledge of cybersecurity? Will they fall victim to one of the ever sophisticated phishing attacks that have been hitting my inbox recently?
This is why I believe the government’s Streetwise campaign has been launched at a good time. Not only does the campaign give out good and well thought advice, it also teaches consumers the dangers of posting sensitive information online and how to identify suspicious emails. I am well aware that similar campaigns have been done in the past. However, let’s be honest, when a vendor launches a ‘Cyber Safe’ campaign people get cynical and just think they’re trying to sell you products, and when an independent body launches one, it will never have the funding to reach a mass consumer audience. The Streetwise project is being funded by a pretty big pot of money from the Government’s National Cyber Security Programme meaning it has the ability to make a big impact.
Consumers need to know more about cybercrime. I obviously can’t guarantee it will make them any more cyber-savvy but at least the government is trying.