Considering we in the UK have “the most internet-based global economy”, you’d expect our online security systems to be second to none.
Yet, while many of us choose to install anti-virus and internet security packages onto our computers, smartphones and other portable device-based questions have been raised over whether our government is taking a similarly vigilant stance against the threats posed in the digital world.
A recent report commented on how the UK Government is in the process of establishing a “Cyber Reserve” which is designed to increase our online security.
This action will be taken as part of the first annual update of our government’s online security practices – a fact which is somewhat surprising when you consider the high volume of cases regarding online crime which are reported.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude commented that the government is “now focusing [their] efforts on making sure that the right incentives and structures are in place to change behaviour in a sustainable way”; a noble act but one which you can’t help but think should have been adopted sooner.
This reserve will be run by experts in the field, hoping to raise the bar for online security across the country. Naturally, individual websites and internet users will still need to implement their own safety practices when working online, but improvements from the government could reduce threat levels generally.
This would subsequently remove some responsibility from us users when it comes to staying safe online – but is it enough?
According to a report on ten of the biggest scams of the last year, online crime featured heavily. Whilst this may seem unsurprising when you consider the number of visits each of us makes to websites on a daily basis, it does highlight the low security levels currently in place.
Online banking was naturally a prime area of focus and despite institutions implementing intricate login systems designed to outsmart the latest hacking programs, an increase in online banking fraud was still recorded.
In comparison to 2011 figures, fraudulent online banking activity increased by more than a quarter (28% to be precise) with customers losing a collective £21.6 million between January and June alone.
The theft of login details was also noticeably high for the year. In excess of 12 million pieces of data were illegally sold in the first quarter of the year, which is more than the total amount of similar data illegally sold for all of 2010.
Government decisions to improve online security services could therefore be seen as a beacon of light, but is it too little too late when fraudsters and digital criminals already seem to be so far ahead? Even the 2012 London Olympic Games found their way onto the list of top scams, with the UK government unable to protect one of the biggest events in their history from scam artists.
Alongside their poor defences, suggestions have even been made that the UK Government actually poses one of the biggest threats to online security. In what some might call a controversial quote, security expert Bruce Schneier claimed:
“The current risks to internet freedom, openness and innovation don’t come from the bad guys – they are political and technical.”
Whether you agree with this bold assertion or not is largely irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that governments have been imposing stricter restrictions on everyday users, limiting our activities in an alleged attempt to curb criminal activity – something which the previously mentioned figures prove has not been successful.
Debate surrounding the government’s ability to monitor our online activity is still fierce and arguments for both sides are able to hold weight in what has to be one of the biggest ethical dilemmas we have faced since the advent of the internet.
Presenting something of a double-edged sword, the question of whether the government is doing enough to secure our online security is one which effectively has no answer – or at least not a simple one.
For this very reason, options such as EV SSL are becoming extremely popular with consumers who are keen to ensure their online activity is as secure as possible.
Whilst decisions to implement a Cyber Reserve and establish a National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) are certainly welcomed by those of us all too familiar with the risks faced while on the internet, the truth of the matter is that far more can be done to ensure the security of our data and our freedom when online.