1 in 5 Scots’ emails fall victim to hacking

Police and security experts have warned about the growing threat of cyber-crime. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Police and security experts have warned about the growing threat of cyber-crime. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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One in five Scots has had their e-mail compromised or hacked, it has been claimed.

Research by an internet security firm found that despite security breaches, internet users continue to use e-mail to send sensitive information.

The survey of more than 2,000 people comes amid increasing warnings from police about the growth in cyber-crime.

An audit of crime figures published last month by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) found offences moving online, with 11 per cent of sexual crime alone having a “cyber element”. The report warned online crime was more challenging to identify, record and investigate and warned cyber-related offences would “increase significantly” over the coming years.

Internet security firm Stay Private surveyed more than 2,000 people across the UK and found 20 per cent of Scots have had their e-mails “compromised or hacked”, putting them at risk of ID theft and fraud.

The firm said that despite a high level of awareness about cyber-crime, around half of people continue to send personal or confidential information, such as bank or passport details, using e-mail accounts which have previously been hacked.

Rob Reid, founder of StayPrivate, said: “Internet cyber-crime is a real and present threat to individuals and it is getting worse as more of our personal data is being sent and stored via unsecure communication channels such as personal e- mail.

“Our research shows how consumer behaviour online suggests individuals in Scotland are not doing enough to protect themselves against the potential of being a victim of cyber-crime, despite their claim that they are aware of the threats they face.”

He added: “Scots are aware of the cyber threats they face and they are confident that personal webmail accounts protect them but given our research findings, this confidence is misguided with evidence that many people are willingly sending information that heightens their chances of being a victim of cyber-crime.”

The warning came as Police Scotland said elderly and vulnerable people were being targeted in a scam which involves buying iTunes gift cards to pay off outstanding debts to the HM Revenue and Customs.

Constable Jim Watson said: “The inland revenue would never require any payment by means of ITunes or any other gift cards.

“If you receive a call making such demands then please hang up and contact the police.”