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Three quarters of Britons risking online safety

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A new survey from Cyber Streetwise has revealed the vast majority of people are not taking necessary steps to protect their identity online.

Karen Bradley

A new survey from Cyber Streetwise has revealed the vast majority of people are not taking the necessary steps to protect their identity online, with 75% admitting they do not follow best practice to create complex passwords.

New guidance from the government states the key to creating a strong password includes using three words or more and adding a symbol to make the password even more secure.

The figures were released to mark the launch of the latest phase of the government’s Cyber Streetwise campaign. In partnership with the police and industry experts, Cyber Streetwise aims to raise awareness of wise and unwise behaviour online.

Despite 95% of Britons saying it is their own responsibility to protect themselves online, two thirds are risking their safety by not using symbols in passwords. Nearly half (47%) have other unsafe password habits such as using pet names or significant dates as their password. The new statistics are revealed during Cyber Security Awareness Month and ahead of Get Safe Online week.

Modern Slavery and Organised Crime Minister Karen Bradley said:

When passwords are compromised, financial and banking details can be stolen, causing problems for the person affected, for businesses and for the economy. There is an emotional impact caused by the loss of irreplaceable photos, videos and personal emails, but even worse, these can be seized to extort money.

We can and must play a role in reducing our risk of falling victim to cyber crime. Most attacks can be prevented by taking some basic security steps, and I encourage everyone to do so.

The research shows 82% of people manage more online accounts that require a password than they did last year, with the average Briton dealing with 19. Over a third (35%) of those questioned admit that they do not create strong passwords because they struggle to recall them.

However, poor passwords leave people vulnerable to identity theft, fraud and extortion. Cyber crime is a serious threat to the UK and the government is taking action to increase public awareness of the risk. The government has dedicated £860 million over five years through the National Cyber Security Programme and is working to transform the UK response to cyber security.

Director of the National Crime Agency (NCA) National Cyber Crime Unit Jamie Saunders said:

The NCA is working closely with law enforcement colleagues all over the world to target and disrupt cyber criminals, but we should be clear that they will target weakness and therefore having weak passwords will leave you vulnerable.

Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs to be stolen or held to ransom, so simple things like using three or more words, a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols, upper and lower case letters will make it much more difficult for hackers to access your details.

Advice

Advice on creating strong, memorable passwords can be found on cyberstreetwise.com, along with other easy tips for staying safe online.

Tips for creating and remembering passwords include:

  • Loci method: Imagine a familiar scene and place each item that needs to be remembered in a particular location i.e. red rose on the table, book on chair, poster on wall. Imagine yourself looking around the room in a specific sequence. Re-imagine the scene and the location of each item when you need to remember

  • Acronyms: Use a phrase or a sentence and take the first letter from that sentence

  • Narrative methods: Remember a sequence of key words by creating a story and littering it with memorable details e.g. ‘the little girl wore a bright yellow hat as she walked down the narrow street…’

For information on Cyber Security Awareness Month visit

Published 15 October 2014