UK to launch public cyber security awareness campaign

The UK government is to launch a public cyber security awareness programme early this year aimed at consumers and small businesses

The Cabinet Office is to launch a public cyber security awareness programme early this year aimed at improving the online security of consumers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The initiative is part of the government’s cyber security strategy, aimed at ensuring the UK can manage the risks and harness the benefits of cyberspace.

Marking the strategy’s first anniversary last month, minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said business and government needed to continue to educate customers so that everyone using the internet is better informed of the potential risks and how to protect themselves online. 

The new programme is aimed at raising public awareness about threats online and where to go for more information.

The programme will specifically target school children, as well as adults who take a reckless attitude to posting personal details online, according to The Guardian.

"The big goal for the next 12 months is to get somewhere transformative in terms of business and public understanding of this issue," the paper quotes a senior official as saying.

Maude said the progress of the programme will be measured through a new National Cyber Confidence research tracker, which will regularly track online safety perceptions and behaviour.

The Cabinet Office's parliamentary secretary, Chloe Smith, who is spearheading the government campaign, said the threats from cyberspace were "ever-growing and ever-changing".

"We need to crack this problem. I am not sure it will be possible to talk about being invulnerable, but it is possible to talk about being well prepared for incidents, for being well skilled across society, and for government and industry and academia working together to take it seriously,” she said.

According to Smith, citizens have to be just as aware of cyber threats as government employees and private sector leaders.

“We need to be working at all levels of society. I am passionate about young people being prepared for the [cyber] world," she said.

The government has rated cyber attacks as a Tier 1 threat and has committed £650m to the transformative National Cyber Security Programme to bolster the UK’s cyber defences.

In his one-year review of the cyber security strategy, Maude said a recent survey found that 93% of large corporations and 76% of small businesses had experienced a cyber security breach in the past year.

Maude said government was not immune either, with an average of more than 33,000 malicious emails blocked at the Gateway to the Government Secure Intranet every month, which are likely to contain – or link to – sophisticated malware, often sent by highly capable cyber criminals and state-sponsored groups.

The new public awareness programme will add to existing initiatives such as Get Safe Online Week and technology being rolled out by HMRC to alerts visitors to their website when they have an out-of-date browser which may pose a security risk to them.

This service will be rolled out across government once it is tried and tested, said Maude.

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