Portsmouth goes to war with cyber terrorists and hackers to stop them ransacking Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH is raising its firewalls to combat the scourge of hackers and cyber terrorists who are holding dozens of businesses to ransom.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 7:27 am

Determined leaders from Shaping Portsmouth are kick-starting an ambitious programme to transform Portsmouth into Britain’s first ‘cyber safe’ city.

The ground-breaking initiative has seen businesses chiefs and police uniting with cyber security experts to create a virtual ring of steel to protect companies from attack.

It comes as the group claimed cyber-crime was on the rise, with 104 businesses across Hampshire falling victim to hackers last year – at a cost of more than £500,000.

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Michael Thornton, managing director of KSM Telecom and part of Shaping Portsmouth’s cyber-crime working group

Michael Thornton, managing director of KSM Telecom and part of Shaping Portsmouth’s cyber-crime working group, is leading the city’s fightback.

He said: ‘Cyber-crime is one of the biggest threats to businesses in Portsmouth right now.

‘This is an ever-evolving issue that’s not going to go away. It’s only going to get worse with attacks that get harder and smarter.’

The project aims to sign-post businesses of all sizes to trusted cyber-security professionals who can help protect their companies.

Cyber criminals have targeted more than 100 Hampshire businesses in the past year stealing more than £500,000, according to Shaping Portsmouth Picture: Shutterstock

It will also offer free advice for companies on how to train staff to avoid common scam tactics employed by online gangs to extort cash from firms.

Shaping Portsmouth’s move to try and protect businesses from attack has been welcomed by cyber-security experts.

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Chris Parker, director of Winchester-based Cyberplus, grew up in Cowplain and said: ‘This is a typically bold move from Portsmouth in making sure the city stays at the forefront of cyber safety.

‘This is great for people like me in the industry to see that Portsmouth is leading the way. There’s no doubt this work will help attract new businesses to Portsmouth knowing the city is cyber safe.’

Methods of attack can vary. One of the most common forms sees online gangs hacking into unprotected systems and installing software that can hold sensitive data ‘ransom’ until victims pay for it to be released.

Others see gangs hacking into emails to find invoices before sending fake invoices that look almost identical, which can see victims unwittingly transfer thousands of pounds into the gang’s coffers.

Despite the risks, many businesses fail to invest in cyber protection software or simple training for staff, with companies repeatedly falling victim.

Nicholas DaCosta-Greene, operations director at cyber security firm Curatrix, in North End, regularly deals with the aftermath of such attacks.

He said one company in Havant had paid out £50,000 after being targeted on 10 different occasions.

’It became evident in 2019, when Hampshire Constabulary published their figures in March, that over 50 per cent of all business-related crime in Hampshire was in fact cyber-related,’ he said

‘To counter this constant threat, we have been working alongside Shaping Portsmouth and other local organisations such as Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth University to provide free cyber advice, workshops and information to the Portsmouth business community.’

He urged all businesses to seek advice and take part in a cyber-crime survey run by Shaping Portsmouth, which can be found at http://shapingportsmouth.co.uk/cyber-security-survey. For more details, see shapingportsmouth.co.uk/cyber-crime