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Inside Kent Police's war on cyber fraud

Cyber crime is an increasingly difficult issue for police forces in our current day and age.

Where traditional forms of theft can be easy to prevent, criminals in Kent are using the internet to exploit people and steal their information digitally.

Cyber fraud is a fast-changing crime as technology quickly evolves
Cyber fraud is a fast-changing crime as technology quickly evolves

Often scammers will target vulnerable people and the elderly by claiming they are protecting them from the very people they are pretending not to be.

Earlier this year, a woman from Dartford received a phone call from a man claiming to be from Scotland Yard, who said her grandson had been arrested with cloned bank cards in his possession.

Luckily the woman did not pass on her details, but got the impression someone would visit her house and ask to take her bank cards if she had.

Scams like this are getting more sophisticated, from phishing emails to ransomware directed at businesses.

Criminals using cyber tactics to exploit people are the primary focus for Aimee Payne, prevent and protect officer for Kent Police.

Listen to Aimee Payne talk about ways to prevent cyber fraud in the KM Community Podcast

Mrs Payne specialises in methods of stopping criminals from exploiting people across the county.

She said: "Somebody can attack your computer very, very easily nowadays. And it doesn't take somebody much to do that.

"You can be burgled in your own home in front of your computer."

The best way of stopping cyber fraudsters in their tracks, she said, is to educate people on ways of keeping themselves safe from different types of digital crime.

Aimee Payne specialises in preventing cyber fraud for Kent Police
Aimee Payne specialises in preventing cyber fraud for Kent Police

The cyber expert said: "Around 53% of all current crime in Kent has some online element.

"I try to tell people a password is a great way to protect your computer, the same way that you would be locking your door."

Mrs Payne said when it comes to security on their devices people need to think of it in the same way as securing their homes.

"If you've had something broken, you're going to go in and you're going to fix that because you want to make sure that you're secure," she said.

"It's the same as with patching your software and updating it because actually, there's a vulnerability there and you need to patch that and repair that."

Kent Police say around 53% of all Kent crimes have a cyber element
Kent Police say around 53% of all Kent crimes have a cyber element

Aside from personal cyber fraud, businesses are often found at risk of attacks from hackers who are testing their skills.

A common hacking tool is the DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) which overloads websites with traffic and disrupts the services.

Mrs Payne works with children who have been found to be testing their hacking abilities and committing cyber offences.

She said: "At the moment, we're dealing with children around about 13 who have committed offences, and they're just trialling their skills out, seeing whether they can do it.

"One of the things that we do is educate around the law and give them a choice, whether they're going to go down the right path or the wrong path. Then we give them the resources to be able to utilize the skills in the right way."

Aimee Payne appeared on KMTV to talk about the University of Kent's cyber forum

It is the hope of Kent Police that Mrs Payne will encourage these young people to become what is known as 'ethical hackers,' working alongside businesses to help them identify weaknesses in their cyber security measures.

In September, the University of Kent hosted a Cyber Security forum at their Canterbury campus to help business leaders protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Shujun Li, professor of cyber security at the university, said: "From phishing attacks to ransomware, cyber attacks are a real threat to organisations of all sizes including small and medium-sized businesses, large companies, the public sector and charities across the UK and the world.

"They are also an increasing threat, with an estimated one third of UK SMEs becoming victims of an attack last year."

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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