04/02/2014 08:24 GMT | Updated 05/04/2014 06:59 BST

Are You 'Cyberstreetwise'?

Are you 'cyberstreetwise'?

I've written before about our shared responsibilities where online safety is concerned. Humans are typically the weakest link in the security chain and cybercriminals focus a lot of their attention on 'hacking' the human. Whether it's the random, speculative attacks designed to make money from anyone unlucky enough to fall victim to a scam or targeted attacks on companies, time and again the attack begins by attempting to trick us into doing something that compromises our security, or the security of the company we work for.

People are reasonably well-equipped to manage risk in the offline world. For example, we have a range of well-established 'common sense' strategies for educating children about the potential dangers of crossing the road: we teach them to use designated crossing points or, where this isn't possible, to look carefully in both directions before starting to cross the road. There's also been a generation or more of television, print and radio advertising campaigns designed to educate the public about the dangers of drink-driving or not wearing a seat belt.

Of course, the advice we give to children and government warnings about safe driving don't guarantee safety, but they do provide information which helps to minimise risk: today, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered socially unacceptable and there are far fewer drink-related incidents on the road than there were forty years ago - thanks to a concerted public information campaign.

Unfortunately, there is no parallel 'online common sense'. This is not surprising; in comparison to the generations of car drivers and people crossing the road, the internet is very new. People are only just beginning to realise how the internet can enhance their lives and sadly, just as many are blissfully unaware of the potential dangers.

So it's good to see the government focusing its attention on this critical area. The new Cyber Streetwise campaign aims to increase awareness of the potential threats and offer straightforward tips on how to reduce the risks associated with online activities - both for businesses and individuals.

The campaign includes an interactive web site, online videos and a real-world poster campaign on the tube.


One addition I would like to see the government make to this campaign is to include television as a medium of communication. It could be argued that young people today are more attuned to what's online, rather than via traditional media. But the millions that follow Coronation Street, EastEnders and other TV soaps testify to the fact that television remains a compelling medium. What's more, the government clearly agrees - it's the main media through which it highlights the dangers of drink-driving and the importance of smoke alarms.

It is important to alert people to the dangers online using all available media platforms, in the hope that they apply the same level of common sense to their online activity that they do in the real world.