Police urge public to learn simple steps for staying safe online

Police in West Yorkshire are raising awareness of cyber crime to mark Safer Internet Day.
Police in West Yorkshire are raising awareness of cyber crime to mark Safer Internet Day.

The simple steps which can help to stop would-be criminals in their tracks will be the focus of police activity across West Yorkshire tomorrow (Tuesday).

The force, one of only a few to have a dedicated cyber crime team, is joining charities and other organisations to mark Safer Internet Day.

Officers will be manning information stalls in shopping centres and calling into schools to teach people of all ages how to protect themselves.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said that while the internet provides a mass of opportunities for all users, it can be used for criminals for negative reasons too.

“We live in an age when almost everyone has access to the internet through a laptop, computer, tablet or mobile phone,” he said.

“People almost lead a second life on the internet, doing much of their banking, shopping and communication there.”

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster.

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster.

As more of our daily activities move online, criminals are finding ways to exploit technology to commit a wide range of offences.

Mr Foster said: “Cyber crime comes in many shapes and forms – it can range from someone gaining access to your bank account and stealing money from you to paedophiles looking to groom young people through chat rooms.

“But if you take some time to follow our simple advice and take sensible precautions then you can greatly reduce your chances of being a victim.”

To mark tomorrow’s awareness day, the force has organised a number of events across West Yorkshire.

It’s just as serious as any other type of physical crime and can have a devastating impact on people’s lives.

Lesley McLean, Victim Support

Police will join O2 Gurus, the NSPCC and Barclay’s Digital Eagles to share safety advice with the public at the White Rose Shopping Centre in Morley, 1pm-5pm.

There will be a similar events at Trinity Walk in Wakefield from 8.30am and next to the Woolshops in Halifax, 11am-2pm.

An officer will visit Eldwick Primary School in Bradford to talk about internet safety, watching pupils perform songs and take part in a cyber quiz for parents and children.

The officer will also host a digital leaders assembly and drop-in sessions to discuss cyber security.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “To children, online friends are real friends and online life is real life. There’s no difference. So it’s vital they are safe and know how to get help if they need it.

“Parents need to feel confident that their children are protected when they’re online, and setting up parental controls, alongside regular chats about their digital lives, can go a long way to minimising the risks.”

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics showed there were more than five million offences of fraud and computer misuse in the year to September 2016.

There were more than 660,000 incidents involving hacking alone.

Lesley McLean, who works for independent charity Victim Support in West Yorkshire, said: “Cyber crime is widespread and is under reported. It’s just as serious as any other type of physical crime and can have a devastating impact on people’s lives.

“Victim Support believes there is a real need to raise awareness of cyber crime and the support options available for those affected. Safer Internet day is a great opportunity to raise the topic and encourage the government, criminal justice agencies and voluntary sector to work together to help make the internet a safer place for everyone.”

But the day is not just about the force helping children and adults to be safer online.

It has also teamed up with aql, a regional lead for the Cyber-security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP), to promote better online security for businesses.

Updates on scams, threats and alerts shared by a range of agencies can be views by registering on the CISP’s free government-funded website.

Karen Swainston, head of corporate relations in the North East for Barclays, said: “Staying safe online has never been more important and working in conjunction with West Yorkshire Police is just one of the many ways we help our customers avoid cyber-crime.

“Both personal and business customers can take practical measures to minimise cyber threats and take steps to ensure they are adequately protected and have the correct software that keeps them and their customers details safe.”

Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police will be changing the profile pictures on its main social media accounts to a smiley emoji to support the #giveasmile campaign which aims to make the internet a more positive place.

Other activities on the day are likely to include the sharing of crime prevention videos, Facebook Live broadcasts and posts featuring the #SID2017 and #WYPSID hashtags.

Find out more about the force’s cyber crime work and watch advice videos here.

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