NCSC Warns of Multimillion Pound Christmas Fraud Bonanza

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is urging Christmas shoppers to exercise caution online this holiday season.

The GCHQ offshoot rolled out its updated Cyber Aware campaign today alongside the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

According to the NCSC, there were over 17,400 reports of online retail fraud last Christmas shopping period, which runs from the start of November until the end of January. They amounted to total losses of £13.5m, or £775 per incident.

The truth is that the real size of online fraud could be many times higher, as cases are often not reported to the authorities.

With consumers expected to surge online this year due to government-imposed lockdowns and social distancing rules, fraudsters and cyber-criminals will be geared up for a bumper season.

NCSC CEO, Lindy Cameron, argued that technology will play a key role in the Christmas season this year.

“Scammers stole millions from internet shoppers last Christmas – but by following our advice, you can protect yourself from the majority of their crimes,” she added.

“We hope the Cyber Aware campaign helps people to shop confidently online and enjoy their Christmas.”

It focuses on six key steps that consumers can take to help them steer clear of online threats.

These are: using strong and unique passwords for email and other online accounts, saved in the browser for ease of use. The NCSC recommended creating passwords using three random words to make them harder to crack or guess. Two-factor authentication (2FA) should also be switched on wherever possible to further bolster access security.

The campaign also urged consumers to backup their data in case ransomware strikes and to update all devices and apps in case attackers look to exploit vulnerabilities to gain remote access.

“If you are shopping online this year, spend the time you would have spent wrapping up warm to head out to the shops on checking your online security,” urged Microsoft chief security advisor, Sian John.

“Let’s make sure the gifts we give this Christmas go to the people we love, not to the fraudsters who just want to steal your money.”

The campaign is set to run across TV, radio and online — the first time the NCSC has produced adverts for media.

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