Record number of online scams taken down by UK cybersecurity agency in 2021

The National Cyber Security Centre said an expansion of its defensive work found and removed more scams than ever last year.

A record 2.7 million online scams were taken down last year by the UK’s cybersecurity experts, new figures show.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the number of scams was four times higher than the amount removed in 2020.

The cybersecurity body said the rise was the result of the organisation expanding its services to tackle a broader range of scams, including fake celebrity endorsements, rather than an overall increase in malicious content targeting the UK public.

It said this work, carried out by the group’s Active Cyber Defence (ACD) programme, had been complimented by reports from the public of suspicious emails, texts and websites – with fake endorsements and extortion emails named as the most common type of scam.

The figures also showed that scammers used themes around the pandemic, such as vaccines and vaccine passports, while one removed scam included saw criminals posing as NCSC chief executive Lindy Cameron.

The NCSC said more than 1,400 phishing schemes themed around the NHS were taken down last year – more than 10 times as many as 2020 – as scammers looked to prey on public concern around the pandemic.

The release of the latest figures comes as the NCSC opens its annual CyberUK conference on Tuesday, where cybersecurity experts will come together to discuss key issues in the sector.

Ms Cameron said: “As we kick off CyberUK, the latest ACD figures shine a light on how the NCSC has responded to emerging cyber threat trends and security issues to keep the UK safe at scale.

“We know that scammers will go to great lengths – and indeed my name has been used to try to trick people – but as we continue to expand our defences we can see the tangible impact this is having.”

Dr Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director, said the statistics show the “crucial interventions” the organisation can make to “take down online threats, deter attackers and improve our collective cyber resilience”.

He encouraged more businesses to “work even more closely with us” to improve the NCSC’s services that “take down and block malicious websites”.

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