How to outsmart the hackers

5th May 2015

In January of this year, an experiment was conducted to test how secure our personal details are from cyber criminals when using free Wi-Fi in public places. The bad news is that, after reading some readily available tutorials, it took volunteer Betsy Davies just ten minutes to hack into a fellow volunteer’s computer when using a Wi-Fi hotspot similar to that of a public coffee shop. The really bad news is that Betsy is just seven years old.

Betsy was able to read her friend’s emails, view their web history and take control of their social media accounts. With hacking apparently so easy to learn and orchestrate, should we be asking more questions about the state of security of our online financial information?

As consumers, we are constantly encouraged to use our smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to access our accounts on the move, often utilising free Wi-Fi hotspots and rarely considering the potential consequences. As a result, the problem of cybercrime is growing with 56 per cent of Britons having been victims of cybercrime with the average loss per individual being £247.

The Cabinet Office published statistics in December 2014 showing that 81 per cent of large corporations and 60 per cent of small businesses reported a cyber-breach in 2014. This could be just the tip of the iceberg. The City of London Police point out that it’s difficult to correctly guess quite how much cybercrime is committed with up to 85 per cent of fraud and cybercrime left unreported.

The prevalence of cybercrime and quite how many people it is affecting is clearly a serious issue. Both Government and IT professionals are investing time, money and effort looking into innovative new ways to outsmart the hackers and I commend them for the important work they are doing. In the meantime, there is a safe, cheap and easy to implement alternative that could save us the stress and financial cost of falling victim to cybercrime. It is, of course, the paper statement. Only 1 per cent of ID Fraud is committed by post compared with the 70 per cent that is committed online. I for one will be managing my finances by paper and, with threat of cybercrime looming over us all, I would invite you to join me.

Judith Donovan