GCHQ launches coronavirus ‘Cyber Aware’ campaign
By Sarah Wood | 21st April 2020
Cyber experts have launched measures to protect the UK from online harm, as the country continues to rely more on technology while staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of Cheltenham-based GCHQ, has today launched the cross-governmental 'Cyber Aware' campaign, which offers advice for people to protect passwords, accounts and devices. It has also published specific advice for personal and professional use of video conferencing services, with top tips on setting up your accounts, arranging a chat and protecting your device.
The NCSC's new 'Suspicious Email Reporting Service' will make it easy for people to forward suspicious emails to the NCSC - including those claiming to offer services related to coronavirus.
This will build on the organisation's existing services, which have already removed more than 2,000 online scams related to coronavirus in the last month, including:
- 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus related items
- 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause significant damage to any visitors
- 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords or credit card details
- 832 advance-fee frauds where a large sum of money is promised in return for a set-up payment
NCSC Chief Executive Officer Ciaran Martin said: "Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it - but that means cyber security is more important than ever.
"With greater use of technology, there are different ways attackers can harm all of us. But everyone can help to stop them by following the guidance campaign we have launched today.
"But even with the best security in place, some attacks will still get through. That's why we have created a new national reporting service for suspicious emails - and if they link to malicious content, it will be taken down or blocked. By forwarding messages to us, you will be protecting the UK from email scams and cyber crime."
Minister for Security James Brokenshire said: "Criminals are seeking to exploit our greater use of emails, video conferencing and other technologies for their advantage.
"It's despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes. We all have a part to play in seeing they don't succeed.
"I encourage everyone to follow the Cyber Aware advice and to use the Suspicious Email Reporting Service. They provide important new ways in which we can protect ourselves as well as our families and businesses."
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: "Technology is helping us work remotely, connect with family and friends and access medical advice online, so we can stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. But cyber criminals are also exploiting this crisis to target people and organisations.
"I urge everyone to remain vigilant online, follow the National Cyber Security Centre's guidance on passwords and account security, and report suspected coronavirus related scams if you see them."
With many people in the UK trying video conferencing for the first time, the advice includes top tips on securely installing the app, creating a strong password and tracking who is joining the chat.
The Cyber Aware campaign will be delivered by the NCSC working alongside the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and will aim to help individuals and organisations protect their data passwords, the accounts they protect and the devices they use to access them.
The campaign encourages people to 'Stay home. Stay Connected. Stay Cyber Aware', and its top tips for staying secure online are:
- Turn on two-factor authentication for important accounts
- Protect important accounts using a password of three random words
- Create a separate password that you only use for your main email account
- Update the software and apps on your devices regularly (ideally set to 'automatically update')
- Save your passwords in your browser
- To protect yourself from being held to ransom, back up important data
This Suspicious Email Reporting Service has been co-developed with the City of London Police. By forwarding any dubious emails - including those claiming to offer support related to COVID-19 - to email@example.com , the NCSC's automated programme will immediately test the validity of the site. Any sites found to be phishing scams will be removed immediately.
As well as taking down malicious sites, it will support the police by providing live time analysis of reports and identifying new patterns in online offending - helping them stop even more offenders in their tracks.
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