Police have launched an urgent initiative to try to counter the rise in highly sophisticated cyber-criminals targeting West Midlands firms.
Officers from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit have been visiting firms across the region based on intelligence received from the National Crime Agency.
The NCA says UK-based servers have been compromised more than 5,500 times and are now being used by criminals to send out spam email, launch attacks against websites or servers, or install phishing websites to gain access to sensitive information.
The Birmingham Post revealed as long ago as 2013 that some city companies had been targeted by crooks who had taken over their systems and were blackmailing them to be allowed access.
Police have admitted they are struggling to cope with the huge increase in attacks, with the response hit by funding cuts.
In January this year, the region’s police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said massive funding reductions were hitting the force’s ability to tackle terrorism and the growing threat of online crime.
Commissioner Jamieson said: “We are kidding ourselves as a society if we believe crime is falling. What’s happening is that crime is changing. You’re not likely to get mugged on the street any more, but you get mugged online instead.
“We’re seeing a fall in traditional crime, such as car crime or burglary, but there is online crime, and cyber crime against business. Nationally, and in the West Midlands, we are barely beginning to touch the surface of these types of crimes.”
Now, in a bid to educate companies on how to protect themselves, officers have started a range of initiatives.
Detective Inspector Rob Harris, from the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit, explained: “There are some very simple steps businesses and members of the public can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime.
“It’s easy things from installing anti-malware software and keeping it up to date to always using a secure alpha-numeric password.
“Throughout this week, our officers will be offering tips to people to secure their businesses, home computers and mobile devices.”
Staff from the Regional Cyber Crime Unit will also be working with the local forces to engage with members of the public at busy locations in the region, such as shopping centres like Touchwood in Solihull and the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent.
Malware clean-up tools for businesses and members of the public, as well as information and advice on many aspects of online safety, are available at www.cyberstreetwise.com and www.getsafeonline.org . Online crime can be reported at www.actionfraud.police.uk