A new initiative by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, will promote cyber awareness in the UK to support the country's digital economy.
The Cyber to the Citizen initiative was developed in partnership with Get Safe Online to harness the expertise of BCS members to educate UK communities on how to keep safe online.
“Studies show 36 million UK citizens used the internet each day in 2013; it is our channel of choice to communicate, make financial transactions and access services, and it provides us with many benefits.
“Therefore it is imperative that we all understand how to keep ourselves safe online,” said John Doody, cyber lead for BCS Security.
Get Safe Online's chief executive, Tony Neate, said the internet is a hugely positive thing and with a bit of extra vigilance, people need not be worried about being caught out by cyber criminals.
“The big message we are trying to put across is that implementing a few small behaviour changes can make a big difference when it comes to enjoying the internet safely,” he said.
Cyber to the Citizen is designed to complement and collaborate with Get Safe Online and other initiatives aimed at raising cyber security awareness, such as the newly launched Cyber Streetwise campaign.
“This is an incredibly important issue and one that has been in the media frequently in recent months,” said Doody.
“We know that it is one that BCS members have opinions on, so rather than simply talking about the issue, we want to encourage them to get involved, take action and make a real difference,” he said.
The initiative is designed to link volunteers from the Institute’s expert IT membership with local communities to provide practical advice and education.
The advice will include how to implement simple safeguards such as setting up and using passwords and ensuring software is kept up to date through automatic updates.
BCS volunteers will register with the programme to get the support of administrative services, training and presentation materials developed by Get Safe Online and BCS.
“We are aiming to make a major contribution to minimising online crime and other threats by increasing awareness of how to stay safe online and change behaviours,” said Doody.
In the longer term, both organisations hope that BCS members will be able to train members of communities and businesses to expand the reach of the campaign beyond the BCS membership.
“Ensuring that individuals can enjoy the benefits of the digital world and understand how to maintain their privacy and security are vital as our reliance on technology continues to grow,” said Alun Cairns MP.
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“The government cannot do everything on its own so this initiative is important to address the lack of security awareness among citizens aged 45 or more,” he said at the launch event in London.
By educating parents about online safety, Cairns said the initiative will also help address issues such as grooming and cyber bullying that controls, which the UK’s new child sex abuse filters cannot eliminate.
While the introduction of such filters in the UK are a significant step forward, Cairns said more needs to be done, and the Cyber to the Citizen initiative fits the bill perfectly.
He said the initiative has the potential of reaching not only employees, parents and their children, but also senior citizens, who would benefit from being able to use internet safely.
Cairns used the opportunity to call on the BBC to use its access to a mass television audience to do more to raise awareness about safety online in line with its mandate to inform the public.
“Just as the story line of EastEnders raised awareness of the real risks of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, the BBC should be using story lines to eliminate ignorance about the safe use of IT,” he said.