Earlier this month, parts of our NHS fell victim to a cyber attack with the full extent of the breach causing havoc to thousands of organisations and individuals across more than 150 countries.
Astonishingly, around a fifth of NHS trusts were hit, including York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which confirmed it was amongst those experiencing IT difficulties – forcing operations and procedures to be postponed.
GP practices were affected too.
And the cause? Ransomware that infected computers, freezing them, with a message from hackers threatening to delete files unless a ransom was paid.
And the lesson? If one of the biggest employers in the world, looking after some of our most sensitive information, can be vulnerable to cyber crime, then so is every one of us.
When speaking to the public, to ensure the latest police and crime plan reflected your views, ‘scams and fraud’ was listed as one of the top five priorities for people living in North Yorkshire, and the thing which you felt had changed most in the last five years.
Whether personal, financial or even sexual, online crime is a real threat in North Yorkshire, despite it being the safest place in England.
We must therefore be extremely careful to ensure we have security measures in place to stay safe online. And while North Yorkshire Police has a lot in place to combat hacks against them – and was not affected by the recent attack on the NHS – we need to make sure we take personal responsibility to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our livelihoods.
To put it in context, for years, North Yorkshire Police has invested in reducing the number of burglaries by focussing on prevention.
From warning homeowners to lock their doors and windows, secure sheds and mark property, to promoting Neighbourhood Watch and Community Messaging.
We now need to transfer the same thinking to cyber crime.
As well as making sure you lock your doors, change your passwords.
As well as joining Neighbourhood Watch, ensure you have parental controls on your computers and phones at home.
If you’re a parent and want to keep your children safe, something I am well aware of with two teenagers myself, Share Aware aims to give parents the tools they need to have regular and informed conversations with their child about staying safe online.
Parents can sign up to emails and become an expert in their child’s online world in six weeks. Visit https://www.nspcc.org.uk/ for more information.
For businesses, the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Cyber Crime Unit, which works to reduce the risk of companies becoming victims of cyber crime, regularly holds events to educate businesses on the cyber threats and vulnerabilities they face.
You can see more about that here if you’re interested – http://www.yhrocu.org.uk.
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire Police has strengthened its resources to tackle cyber crime by ensuring that training is now mainstreamed for frontline detectives, intelligence officers, dedicated investigators and other specialist departments. These skills need to be business as usual and not specialist.
However, when the police need it, we do have a specialist cyber crime unit who are there to support those serious crimes and complex investigations that are beyond most of us.
Those skills are key in an ever-changing world of technology, not to mention the dark-web.
Evidently, there is an abundance of advice and support available, so it is now up to each and every one of us, as individuals, parents or business owners, to utilise it and protect ourselves online.
I would encourage anyone who is worried that they may have been a victim of online crime to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 or Supporting Victims on 01609 643100.
You can also find helpful information and advice on the North Yorkshire Police website Cybercrime page www.northyorkshire.police.uk/cybercrime.