CYBER SECURITY experts have revealed the foremost Government impersonation scams they’ve removed from the Internet in 2022, at the same time urging members of the public to remain vigilant to the threats posed by cyber crime in the year ahead.
The scams unveiled by the National Cyber Security Centre – which is part of GCHQ – included phishing e-mails and messages from cyber criminals impersonating well-known Government brands, among them the National Health Service, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Ofgem.
Phishing involves attempts by hackers to trick people into doing ‘the wrong thing’, such as clicking a bad link that will download malware or direct them to a fake website. The criminals’ aim is often to make recipients visit a website, which may download a virus on to their computer, ask them to make a payment or steal bank details and other sensitive information.
Cyber criminals often seek to exploit topical events to make their phishing attempts more convincing. In 2022, the National Cyber Security Centre witnessed scammers exploiting the cost-of-living crisis through attempted Ofgem energy bill support scams and HMRC tax rebate scams, while scammers continued to take advantage of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic to attempt PCR test scams.
The foremost Government-branded attacks that have been reported to the Suspicious e-Mail Reporting Service and resulted in takedowns are those related to the NHS, TV Licensing, HMRC, GOV.UK, the DVLA and Ofgem.
The National Cyber Security Centre encourages members of the public to forward suspect e-mails to the Suspicious e-Mail Reporting Service at email@example.com, while suspicious texts should be forwarded to 7726.
The Suspicious e-Mail Reporting Service received 6.4 million reports during 2022, with 67,300 scam URLs removed as a result. This brings the total number of reports made to the Suspicious e-Mail Reporting Service since its launch in 2020 to 15.8 million, with 198,500 takedowns enacted as a result.
Exploiting trends and current affairs
Sarah Lyons, deputy director for economy and society resilience at the National Cyber Security Centre, commented: “We know full well that cyber criminals try to exploit trends and current affairs to make their scams seem convincing. Sadly, our latest data shows that 2022 was no exception to that rule. By shining a light on these scams, we want to help people more easily spot the common tricks fraudsters use such that they can remain safer in the online domain.”
Lyons added: “There is much more advice on the National Cyber Security Centre’s website about spotting suspicious messages, along with our Cyber Aware guidance to help people protect their devices.”
Mike Glassey, Chief Information Security Officer at Ofgem, explained: “Protecting consumers is our top priority. It’s alarming that vulnerable customers are being preyed upon when people are already struggling so much with energy bills. That’s why, as the energy regulator, and on top of issuing our own warnings and advice, we have asked all energy suppliers to ensure clear and up-to-date information on scams is easily accessible on their websites.”
Glassey went on to comment: “We take these attempts to exploit consumers very seriously and work with the National Cyber Security Centre to prevent such malicious attacks, identifying and responding in near real-time to over 100 of these phishing campaigns in 2022 alone. Our Energy Aware campaign is a one-stop shop for all energy consumers to access help, support and advice on scams and other energy bill issues.”
Cyber Aware advice
The National Cyber Security Centre is also urging members of the public to follow its Cyber Aware advice in order to protect their online accounts from scammers seeking to steal personal details and sensitive information.
Further, the National Cyber Security Centre urges online shoppers to check before they buy and use secure payment methods in order to remain one step ahead of the threats posed by criminals during 2023 and beyond.
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