9972 cybercrimes have been recorded by Greater Manchester Police between April 2014 and May 2016, with the biggest increases witnessed in blackmail, harassment and child sexual activity.
To warn the public of cybercrime and prevent people of becoming victims, GMP is launching a new campaign, #trappedintheweb, which highlights the potential dangers we come across every day, but not pay attention to, on the Internet.
Detective Chief Inspector Danny Inglis said: “This campaign looks at what people can do to stay safe online and asks them to pause and think before sharing any personal data online – the vast majority of people and businesses online are trustworthy but being wary when using online services helps people stay even safer.
“A really simple rule to follow is that if you wouldn’t do it in real life, then don’t do it online”, he added.
Cybercrime is recognised as one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK with numerous ways to “trap people in the web” – from identity theft, to sextortion, to fraud and human trafficking, to ransomware.
When Zornitsa Doncheva, 22, from Salford, first saw the ransomnote pop on her screen, she thought a friend was joking around.
“It was when I tried to get rid of the message, that I saw that all the files on my desktop had been encrypted and I had no access to any of them. Not a photo, not an audio file, not even the essay I was due to submit by the end of the week!”, Miss Doncheva said.
Not only isn’t your PC fully protected, but hackers can also infect your phone, tablet and almost any other device, simply by sending you an email attachment that seems harmless at first, until you are being blackmailed for money to get access to your own data.
Miss Doncheva said: “Eventually, I ended up buying a new lap top as I couldn’t use mine any more, but I am glad that at least the money didn’t go to those criminals, as that would only have encouraged them to continue blackmailing people.
“Ever since, I always make sure to update my antivirus program regularly and always back up my data on a separate device”, she added.
Mr Ali Dehghantanha, a senior lecturer in Cyber Security at the University of Salford, said: “There is nothing called a strong enough protection! In reality, a software that cannot be hacked still doesn’t exist and no Internet user is ever completely safe online.
“Attackers need only one loophole to get in while users should defend all venues.”
As part of the campaign, posters, ads and social media posts will circulate the messages of warning across Greater Manchester, highlighting the various dangers and threats Internet users face. GMP aims to inform people and prevent them from becoming victims of cybercrime.