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PCC urges public to protect themselves as new criminal technology emerges

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is urging the public to secure their phones, laptops and online presence following a visit to the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit (CDCU). The Unit, based at Cumbria Police HQ, celebrated two years since the unit launched. The CDCU, which is funded by the PCC, opened on Monday 20 May 2019 and focusses on tackling crimes that affect the residents of Cumbria from fraud to sexual exploitation.

Since its launch, the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit have assisted with an array of cases including 114 investigations where warrants and arrests have been made regarding online child abuse cases, including indecent images. In relation to other cyber-crime offences, 183 investigations were launched. All victims were contacted by specialists from the CDCU to provide advice to assist the victims with protecting themselves online.

The visit saw the PCC being introduced to technology such as the wi-fi pineapple which criminals use to access private information and contacts through Bluetooth. The device works by picking up signals from phones and laptops in a certain area where the Bluetooth is active, the criminals can then access all the individual’s information and use it as they see fit.

The specialised officers also highlighted a new, free tool available to small to medium sized businesses and charities in Cumbria called Police CyberAlarm. The tool acts like a ‘CCTV camera’ monitoring the traffic seen by a businesses’ connection to the internet. It will detect and provide regular reports of suspected malicious activity, enabling a business to take steps to improve their cyber resilience. Businesses can sign up on the cyberalarm.police.uk/#join website. They will then receive a unique code which once added to the website will provide access to full instructions and how to install Police CyberAlarm.

Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Cyber-related crimes are on the rise as technology is advancing as criminals can now target individuals from the comfort of their own home and even covertly in public.

“This is why I funded and launched a specialised Cyber and Digital Crime Unit for Cumbria.

“The aim of the unit is to catch those who commit cyber and cyber enabled crimes but also to prevent and educate the public on how to protect themselves online.

“We all spend much more time online both socially and for business and we all need to be aware of the potential dangers.

“I would advise the public to turn off all Bluetooth on their devices when it is not in use – the more we protect ourselves and our devices the less these criminals can do.

“The Police CyberAlarm is also a fantastic resource for small businesses and charities, and it’s completely free so definitely worth signing up for.

“Prevention really is key around fraud and scams – if we know how to recognise the signs of phishing, we are less likely to fall victim to them and therefore we put a stop to criminals gaining important personal information.

“There are also tools that can be used to protect our children from being targeted by perpetrators online – I strongly recommend seeking more information which can be found at www.getsafeonline.org, which we fund in order to make it freely available to the public.

“I would urge anyone who has been the subject of cyber-crime to please report it to the Police on 101 – you are not alone in this, the more information we have on these criminals the more likely they can be brought to justice so please report.”

Detective Inspector, Ian Harwood, who leads Cumbria’s Cyber and Digital Crime unit said:

“With cybercrime, prevention is far better than a cure and the impact of becoming a victim can be devastating for individuals and businesses.

“In almost all cases we have seen reported here in Cumbria, regionally across the North West and nationally, simple security steps can keep you safe online. Social media hacking is a growing trend. Here are some security tips to keep you safe: Always use strong passwords and keep them secret. Don’t allow anyone else to know them, this creates a risk of compromise; Make sure you keep your social media security and privacy settings tight; Make sure your digital device and applications are regularly updated to ensure you are using the most secure versions of software; Use two factor authentication as an extra layer of security; and make sure you use a good antivirus software.

“For businesses I would urge them to make sure their data is regularly backed up and emphasize that education of their personnel is crucial. Within any organisation, people still are one of the biggest risks to a compromise.

“Simple education to recognise a suspicious email and understanding the risks of clicking on a potential malicious attachment can make all the difference for a safe digital working environment.

“Get Safe Online and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) websites are good places to get more information about staying safe and cyber security.”

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