Derbyshire's Digital PCSOs are urging people to make improving security online a New Year's resolution for 2020.
Digital PCSOs Sarah Dufton and Laura Buchanan (pictured) are now fully up to speed on cyber issues in their area, and are proactively working in local communities across the county to help people stay safe online.
Sarah and Laura, who are based in Derbyshire Constabulary's policing divisions in the north and south of the county, join the force-wide Digital PCSO James Land.
The role was first launched in 2015 and, similar to a traditional Police Community Support Officer, they work closely with local communities to offer advice, promote safety issues and reduce vulnerability but with a focus on the digital world.
Sarah, Laura and James direct their work to helping people stay safe online, which includes online banking and preventing fraudulent activity, on social media and gaming, and online grooming, as well as being up to speed on the latest scams, trends and threats.
They spend their time visiting community groups, schools, businesses, and work alongside the Safer Neighbourhood policing teams to meet local residents. They also engage with people online through their Twitter feed, @DigitalPCSO.
Sarah, who has been a PCSO with Derbyshire for almost 15 years, said: "Cybercrime can be one of the most damaging crimes a victim can experience, and it is more common than you think because we are all going online much more now than ever before.
“Every year across the globe, millions of pounds of money and lots sensitive data are stolen from people, including individuals in our local communities, and a lot of this can be prevented with some simple actions.
“We’re here to show people, especially those who are the most vulnerable, how to protect themselves and their family online and not be tricked into giving away information to the wrong person.”
At this time of year, Sarah, Laura and James are particularly keen to remind people about making sure any devices they buy or receive as gifts are as secure as possible to protect your data and personal information.
They also ask parents to consider limits and speak to children and teenagers about staying safe online.
Laura, who has also been a PCSO for more than 11 years, said: “Even if you haven’t received new devices this Christmas, please just take a few moments to make sure your current devices are secure.
“We know that smartphones and tablets are very popular, and if you’re a parent there are so many exciting games and consoles around, there is a good chance you might have one coming into your house.
“The best advice we can give is to talk to your child regularly and openly about behaviour and risk, so that they know they can come to you if something goes wrong.”
The police have issued the following tips for security on devices:
- Remember to secure all new devices and include smart home equipment, cameras, lights etc. as they need to be secured just like your phones, tablets, and laptops.
- Set safe passwords- make them stronger by using three random words, numbers and symbols.
- Make sure that your device automatically locks after a brief period of inactivity, preferably between 30 seconds and two minutes. This reduces the opportunity for someone to access your personal information if you misplace your device.
- Software and app updates contain vital security upgrades which help protect your devices from viruses and hackers. Keep them up to date.
- Back up all your important information and files on to an external device.
- Consider using Two Factor Authentication, or 2FA, which is an extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of online accounts beyond just a user name and password.
Residents can also take part in the Safer Derbyshire Digital MOT - a questionnaire to find out how safe people are online, which gives actions and advice on how to improve their cyber security.
For parents, police have the following advice which can help their child or teenager to stay safe online:
- Set up parental controls- they can be used to block upsetting or harmful content and apps, control purchases and manage how long your child spends online.
- Make sure your child is using games appropriate for their age by checking the PEGI ratings. They ensure youngsters are not exposed to violence, sex or drug use while playing games.
- Regularly check your child’s devices for inappropriate google searches, adverts or messages.
- If your child starts acting differently, or more angrily, after using devices remove them and encourage some time off line. Try to work with them to find out why.
- Be aware of purchases your child can make within games and apps, from Loot Boxes, to coins, game expansions and upgrades. They appeal because they can make the game more fun and interesting but if they don’t understand the costs you might end up spending much more than you realise. You can turn off in-app purchases through parental controls.
- Make sure your child’s social media profiles are locked down and their posts are not public so that only their friends can read them.
People can find out more information about cyber crime and fraud at www.derbyshire.police.uk.