Brian Sims
Editor

Government launches consultation in bid to prevent online account hacking

HOME SECRETARY Priti Patel has reasserted the Government’s determination to drive down cyber crime by launching a nationwide, eight-week long ‘Call for Information’. The consultation process is seeking views from individuals and businesses alike on how to reduce the hacking of online accounts and personal data.

Cyber crime – which includes hacking and ransomware – is one of the most prolific forms of criminality facing the UK public. It’s estimated that over 1.6 million cyber offences were committed last year, costing UK taxpayers billions of pounds in the process. Cyber criminals often use stolen personal data to commit further crimes such as fraud, extortion or stalking, in turn causing serious financial and emotional harm.   

Running under the Cyber Duty to Protect Programme, this latest public consultation focuses squarely on two specific areas of concern: how we authenticate our identity online (such as password login details) and how our personal data is protected for online accounts.

The consultation will seek views on how to reduce the burden on people for their cyber security and encourage organisations to further protect their customers’ accounts and personal data. The Government will then be able to develop new proposals designed to protect the public online such that the nation’s cyber resilience is kept up-to-date with rapid technological developments.

As part of its mission to tackle cyber crime, the Government launched the National Cyber Strategy last year, which set out the vision for protecting the UK’s national security interests online, while in parallel enabling the country to prosper from greater digital connectivity.

Opportunistic and callous

Commenting on the consultation, Priti Patel stated: “Members of the British public should be able to go online without fear of accounts being hacked or personal data being stolen and exploited by opportunistic and callous criminals. We are determined to drive down cyber crime, but also understand the kind of additional steps businesses and individuals need to take to protect their online accounts in the first place.”

Patel continued: “This needs to be a collective effort. Government must work together with the law enforcement community, industry and the public at large to make the UK the safest place to be online.”

Through this consultation, the Home Office is seeking views on the security measures digital service providers (such as online retailers) already have in place and any barriers that may be in place in terms of them seeking to take even greater steps towards preventing cyber attacks.

Nik Adams, commander for economic and cyber crime at the City of London Police, said: “The National Police Chiefs Council’s National Cyber Crime Programme has been working closely with private industry to raise awareness and provide tools to encourage better protection for businesses and their customers against cyber crime. However, in the face of rapid technological advances that can be exploited by criminals, there’s always more to be done.”

Adams went on to note: “This consultation is an important piece of work to understand what additional steps industry can take to better protect members of the public and their personal data. It will help to shape how we lead work across policing to support them and work together to keep the public safe.”

Ahead of the threats

Paul Maddinson, director of national resilience and strategy for the National Cyber Strategy Security, observed: “Our growing use of online accounts creates opportunities for all parts of society, and that’s why it’s important we have full confidence in the security methods of the systems that keep us protected. I encourage individuals, businesses and organisations to consider and respond to this consultation such that they can assist us in collectively ensuring that we stay ahead of the latest threats.”

Respondents (ie any individual, organisation or business) will be invited to discuss the following areas: the risks associated with unauthorised access to UK online accounts and personal data, actions that are currently taken to address the problem and also actions that should be taken (and who’s responsible for them).

*Interested parties looking to contribute to this ‘Call for Information’ process should visit the consultation page at: Unauthorised access to online accounts and personal data - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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