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Paul Holland

Founder & CEO of Beyond Encryption

Safety first in a fast-changing world

A recent report by McKinsey and Company has highlighted big changes in consumer behaviour resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, many of which it concludes will be with us for the long term.

The report demonstrates the sheer scale of growth in adoption of digital solutions across key areas of consumer life including home working, home learning, health, shopping and entertainment, with some truly eye-watering statistics, including:

  • Online delivery volumes achieving 10 years of growth in just 8 weeks
  • Homeworking seeing 20 times the usual number of online meeting participants within 3 weeks
  • The accessing of online health services increasing by 900% in 15 days

The pandemic has resulted in levels of growth in digital solution adoption, normally expected to be measured in years, being compressed into just days and weeks.

Marks & Spencer report their growth in online purchases compressed 8 years into 8 weeks.

The consequences of these behavioural changes are profound and raise critical questions about security in the newly evolved digital world for us all. The effective protection of sensitive data and information online, the fundamental objective of our Mailock Secure Email solution has never been more relevant or more essential.

Pet names as Passwords - Barking up the wrong tree?

A recent survey has highlighted that millions of British people are using their pets' names as their online password, despite it being an easy target for online criminals.

As reported in a BBC News online article from 9th April, The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said 15% of the population used pets' names, 14% use a family member's name, and 13% pick a notable date. 6% of people still use "password" as all, or part of, their password.

The NCSC has urged people to choose random words that are far less likely to be guessed by others.

While the NCSC's guidance is essential to ensure the protection of sensitive data, the burden of setting and remembering strong passwords is ever increasing. The sheer number required to support various online activities is fast becoming a practical issue for most of us - a problem highlighted in an article published by the Times on 8th May which raises a key question: 'Isn't it time to accept that we need more help with our passwords situation; that it's overwhelming us? We recognise they are very necessary to keep our information and money safe but the amount of stress they are causing us needs to be factored in too?'

To read the full BBC news article please click here

Security proves taxing for HMRC

A recent report from The Sunday Times has revealed technological failures from HMRC caused the personal details of 18,496 taxpayers' fines to be incorrectly sent to the wrong recipients in a serious breach of GDPR regulations.

According to the article from 25th April, the issue allegedly stemmed from a 'software problem caused through testing', leaving personal details in the hands of unsuspecting accountancy firms who had 'never heard of' the individuals to which the correspondence was addressed. Each letter included a unique taxpayer code, allowing private information about workers and businesses to be accessed.

In response to the issue, HMRC stated: "We take all aspects of protecting data seriously and are working hard to understand this incident and mitigate future risk." While the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) highlighted the good fortune that these personal details fell into the hands of trustworthy accountancy firms and not "criminals and fraudsters who are likely to share data."

With an increasing movement to digital platforms for the UK's tax systems, this is a blow to HMRC's desire to move the filing of tax returns and communications online, raising significant concerns over future online security and the confidence of people in using their digital services.

Huw's News

UK Finance's recent report on payment industry fraud, 'Fraud - The Facts 2021' provides a highly detailed assessment of this growing issue, clearly highlighting the increasing threat of online fraud.

The report is a sobering read; providing statistics on fraud levels that truly convey the scale of a growing problem that infects lives and destroys livelihoods.

The report highlights how, despite concerted efforts by the banks, which resulted in £1.6 billion of attempted fraud being prevented in 2020, criminals have increasingly turned to online and technology-enabled scams to exploit people's fears about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cyber-criminals are increasingly turning to digital platforms to directly target their victims; stealing money and sensitive information while evading bank's security systems.

To read the full article, click here

Beware before booking

A Sunday Times article from 25th April has exposed a rising number of travel scams to which members of the public have fallen victim.

Metro Bank reported a dramatic rise in people being caught out on bogus holiday sites, enticed by affordable deals to foreign destinations, as fraudsters react to the easing of UK travel restrictions.

In response to these reports, Metro Bank have warned holidaymakers to be suspicious of inexpensive deals online, or ones that require a large deposit. They advise consumers to only use websites that sport the padlock symbol in the URL bar, which confirms the page is secure.

Adam Speakman, Head of Fraud at Metro Bank, said: "If you're being pressured to pay quickly, move funds or share passwords you need to question yourself, or else you could be scammed."

Metro Bank is a part of the banking industry's 'Fraud Refund Scheme' but this only repays fraud victims who handle their money with 'sufficient care'.

Email security is fast becoming a consumer story in the national press and we believe it is worth individuals considering taking up a personal email security account to protect yourself.

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3 in 4 Britons not banking on online security

A recent article in the Mail on Sunday has revealed an alarming lack of consumer confidence in online banking services.

The article, published on 17th April, reports that despite 81% of Britons polled confirming that 'trust is the most important factor in their purchasing journey', 76% of responders ‘lacked trust towards using their banking services online’, according to a survey by security software company SmartSearch.

With many banks continuing to close branches, this raises serious questions for the banking sector regarding a lack of confidence in the perceived security of their online services.

To read the full article, click here

Top Tips - Keeping yourself safe & sound

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published guidance on what to do if you are a customer of an organisation that has suffered a data breach. This guidance includes the following tips:

1. Contact the organisation to find out what has happened and if you have been affected, ensuring that you use their official website or official social media channel. Do not use any links or contact details in any messages you may have received.

2. Be alert to suspicious messages - e.g., with 'clunky' wording or poor grammar in advance of sending.

3. If you receive a suspicious message that includes details of a password you have used, do not panic. Simply make sure that you change that password ASAP for any accounts it may be used for, replacing it with a stronger one in each case.

4. Check your online accounts to confirm there has been no unauthorised activity

For more useful tips and guidance on this subject visit the NCSC Website here