8 September 2017 7:57PM
Police chiefs in Cumbria have been forced to double their force’s cyber crime budget in a decade – as it is revealed councils in Cumbria have suffered a series of digital attacks.
The force is now spending more than half a million pounds a year in the fight against digital criminality – up from just £250,000 in 2010.
The startling information came to light this week as Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall warned international online criminals are ‘entering peoples’ homes via their laptop’ or computer.
Mr McCall claimed every resident can take action to help stop the perpetrators of online crime in their tracks.
These criminals get into your living room or bedroom through your laptop and we have to be alive to that.
“We can all do more, every one of us,” he added.
“These criminals get into your living room or bedroom through your laptop and we have to be alive to that.
“We need to make sure people’s passwords are good and they understand how to protect themselves on line.
“It’s a difficult area to police – we could be dealing with a criminal who is not even in the country, let alone in Cumbria.”
Along with other UK police forces, Cumbria police is now working with the National Crime Agency and international agencies to help catch cyber criminals.
Last year the constabulary spent £512,585 in its bid to tackle digital offences – double the budget allocated to the issue just seven years ago when £256,036 of police funds were used.
But residents, businesses and organisations across the area are now being urged to tighten up their digital security in a bid to stop online thieves gaining a foothold in Cumbria.
Just last weekend, malware attacks wreaked havoc upon the IT systems of North Lakes College, in West Cumbria, and Copeland Borough Council.
Tech criminals have also targeted other organisations across the county in the last three years – with Allerdale Borough Council the subject of a cyber attack since 2014 and a further four aimed at Barrow Borough Council during the same period.
These incidents are in addition to May’s notorious worldwide WannaCry virus which locked NHS computer systems while demanding a ransome paid in the virtual currency Bitcoin.
It left North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust which runs Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary as well as the West Cumberland Hospital, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, which operates Furness General Hospital in Barrow, and the Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust without access to vital software for several days.
This week Copeland mayor Mike Starkie moved to reassure residents of the borough that their data and personal information was safe and had not fallen into the hands of internet thieves during last week’s IT breach.
Chris Nattrass, the principal at Lakes College, in Lillyhall, Workington, also pledged no confidential or personal data had been compromised as it dealt with its own attack despite ‘significant disruption’ to its internal systems.
Industry experts are now reported to be assisting college staff with the restoration of the organisation’s operating system.
Mr McCall, who made tackling cyber crime one of his key priorities following his election last year, added: “This presents a serious risk to us all and we all need to be aware of it.
“There are requirements for the public sector to have business continuity plans in place so they can switch and carry on with their operation in the event of a cyber attack, but whether we have paid lip service to this in the past without expecting it to happen is another thing.”
Top tips to beef up your cyber security
:: Get a strong password. Random combinations of words, letters or digits are much more impenetrable to hackers than your surname followed by 123.
:: Be aware of how much information you are already giving away on social media. If everyone already knows your home city or mother’s maiden name, these are not good security questions.
:: Install anti-virus software on your laptop or PC. Attempting to prevent an attack will save you hours of time and plenty of stress in the long run.
:: Be vigilant against phishing emails. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated in the way they attempt to get us to click on a link to a virus. Many now look authentic but are not really from your bank or online account.
Businesses urged to attend special digital crime event
Businesses across Cumbria are being invited to learn how to increase their digital security at a special event this month.
The free event aims to raise awareness of cyber attacks, the damage they can cause to business systems and the steps everyone can take to avoid them.
The free session has been organised jointly by Carlisle Ambassadors, the office of Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, and Cumbria Constabulary.
It will take place at The Halston, in Carlisle, on Thursday, September 28 between 10am and noon and will feature advice from a number of leading national cyber security experts from organisations including Cumbria police, Get Safe Online, Lloyds Bank and a software company.
Mr McCall said: “We all know how much businesses and their customers rely on the internet from doing their business banking to running their complete business online.
“It is too late when a crime has been committed, but by taking a few simple steps you can protect your business no matter how big or small as criminals have no boundaries.”
To reserve a place, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk and search for Protecting your business from cyber crime.
10 September 2017 9:00AM