“If you are a fan of the [...] Game of Thrones series, you will know that the strapline is 'the winter is coming'. That is certainly the case with cyber crime and fraud,” warned Ben Wallace, minister for security.
“This thing is only going to go one way, it is growing and the barriers to entry for cyber fraud are lowering almost on a daily basis.”
Wallace, who was giving the Fraud Advisory Panel’s annual lecture, added that a criminal would have to be “incredibly stupid” these days to rob a bank when they could be sitting in their back bedroom with a laptop and easy access to the dark net. For £10 they can buy stolen identities, mass target victims and launder the illicit money they make almost simultaneously.
“The reality is we have a major challenge on our hands. As far as the public are concerned, we have to help change the attitude and the culture in our society when it comes to being vulnerable to cyber crime and fraud.
“We have to raise public awareness about what they can do about their own personal security and we have to change their view…that it’s not their money that’s at risk and that someone will always come along and compensate them.”
Part of the problem was the lack of faith the public have in the authorities’ ability to combat fraud and punish the offenders. As a result they don’t tend to report because they don’t see it as worthwhile. “They have this image that fraud is often committed by someone in a far off country and untouchable when in fact more and more that is very much not the case,” he said.
There is a similar head in the sand attitude among businesses which means that many still treat cyber crime as a third or fourth level priority rather than one that should be high up on the boardroom agenda. They also fail to take the most basic precautions against cyber attacks and then drag their feet over reporting them.
This, Wallace said, is “unacceptable” given the need for the authorities fighting cyber crime to understand the scale of the problem; there are also safe spaces offered by the National Cyber Security Centre where they can discuss the information and get help in confidence.
A third challenge is the police. While some forces – like the City of London Police – have recognised the importance of building up their anti-cyber crime teams, there are, he revealed, seven police forces that don’t even have a fraud capability, let alone a cyber crime unit. Yet this type of crime now accounts for 80% of all frauds.
“Fraud is now becoming the bad boy of crime,” he said.
Nevertheless, the success rate in catching cyber criminals is increasing. And he urged the media to stop focusing just on the major cyber attacks themselves but to report the arrest outcomes as well. That way, more people would have faith in the system.