28 Feb 2023

This Simple Tip Might Be Your Most Effective Defence Against Cybercrime

With cybercrime on the rise, how can we protect ourselves? Former Deputy Director of the National Cyber Security Centre, Peter Yapp, shares his insights.

Peter Yapp, former Schillings Partner and one of the founders of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre is standing in the grounds of Bletchley Park, talking about call signs.

“During the Second World War, code breakers here at Bletchley Park always started with a call sign”, he explains – a call sign being the unique identifier code used in radio communications for a transmitter station.

Now retired, Yapp volunteers at the site where the German Enigma Code was broken during the Second World War. Most visitors have no idea they are talking to a man who has spent his entire career tackling cybercrime.

“Today, your personal call sign is your email address” he goes on. “It’s the fundamental basis of almost all your online security – and it’s usually very insecure”.

I’m confused by this. Surely my email address can’t get me into trouble? What can anyone possibly gain from that? Yapp shakes his head.

“Your email address tells a huge story about you. Anyone wanting to find out more about you can use this as a starting point and follow the trail. There is software that can quickly tell people what social media accounts are associated with that address, and where someone with that email address has posted and what they have posted about”.

Could having multiple email addresses for different parts of our online lives solve this problem? Yapp is unconvinced.

“It’s true it could dilute the surface area that someone could attack – but then you’ve got all those e-mail accounts to manage. They should all have different passwords so it becomes really complex – it becomes as complex as trying to manage all your social media accounts”.

His best advice? Protect your email above everything else.

“You need to lock your email down with a really secure password. Make sure it is unique and strong. Use random words put together and protect this above everything else.

With cybercrime and online fraud now representing 53% of all crime in England, it’s time we started protecting ourselves a little better.