Community safety group Neighbourhood Watch has launched a cybersecurity scheme to help Brits protect themselves against online crime.
The Cyberhood Watch initiative, created in partnership with antivirus software firm Avast, is said to be a response to the growing challenge that cybercrime poses to local communities. It aims to teach people about the latest online threats, and gather data about the areas of the UK most at risk.
More people than ever are either falling victim to cybercrime personally, or know someone who has been a victim of online theft, according to a survey of more 14,000 Neighbourhood Watch members. The research found that those who believe cybercrime is less of a threat than physical crime are firmly in the minority (15%).
Additionally, more than a third (34%) believe cybercrime is now a bigger threat than physical crime, and half (50%) think the threat level is similar.
The research highlighted a general lack of confidence in talking about cybercrime experiences within the community, and in understanding the best methods of online protection – in particular for more vulnerable members of the population.
The organisation’s survey also revealed that one-fifth (20%) of Neighbourhood Watch members have been a victim of cybercrime personally.
More than one-third (38%) know at least one person who has fallen victim to cybercrime while an additional 33% have heard about it happening to people they don’t know. Half of those who took part in the study are over 65, indicating that cyber threats are a significant issue for an age group traditionally less knowledgeable about technology and sometimes more isolated socially, and therefore perhaps more reliant on their digital world.
John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch, said: “Neighbourhood Watch is about making sure that fewer people feel afraid, vulnerable or isolated in the place where they live, and in recent years that means helping members learn how to protect themselves, and their local community against cybercrime has become a key priority.
“This may surprise some people who think Neighbourhood Watch is solely focused on physical crime prevention. Our members recognise that the threat of cybercrime is very real, and they tell us that there is a definite need for simple advice and resources so they feel better equipped to defend themselves against it and advise others.”
Avast’s support will include a range of services to help Neighbourhood Watch members become more informed and less at risk of falling victim to cybercrime. This will include a training and accreditation scheme for local Neighbourhood Watch representatives, local informative events, downloadable guides and resources, and ongoing sharing of information about relevant emerging threats.
Hayward-Cripps added: “The content and accreditation course Avast has developed for this campaign will make a very real impact to our members’ lives, so they can feel more assured and safe when doing things like online shopping, communicating with their family on social media or managing their money.”
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Neighbourhood Watch members who have been a victim of cybercrime have experienced both financial and data loss, as well as emotional distress. In terms of financial impact, over a third (36%) lost money and of them, almost a third (29%) lost more than £1,000. The majority of these crimes were kept secret by the victims with only 30% reporting it to the police. Sadly, 5% felt they couldn’t tell anyone with over a third (34%) feeling foolish and embarrassed, and 36% left feeling very upset.
Peter Turner, senior VP, Consumer Security, Avast, said: “Avast has always believed that being safe online should be a basic right for all, which is why we have free versions of our cybersecurity products so that everyone can get great online protection at no cost.
“Neighbourhood Watch community leads, who often represent people and places that are most at risk of cyber threats, are increasingly asking for help following feedback from local members who have experienced scams or security incidents themselves or know someone who has.
“We’re delighted to provide our support by working with them to deliver a cybersecurity accreditation programme with training courses to help members become more confident and knowledgeable in supporting their community cybersecurity requirements.”