Campaign to increase security awareness levels

26 Oct 2005

Identity theft, phishing scams, spyware and child safety online will be the main focus points for this year’s Make IT Secure awareness campaign. The scheme, which was inaugurated last year, highlights the need for better IT security among consumers and businesses.

The scope of the initiative has been broadened from 2004, when the focus was mainly on basic IT security awareness and advising users on how to avoid receiving viruses or spam. Figures released subsequently showed that 33pc of Irish people were aware of last year’s campaign, with three quarters of this number saying they now take PC security more seriously.

Thursday 17 November has been designated as Make IT Secure day, with a series of activities planned in the lead up to that date that will bring the subject of IT security to public attention. A four-week nationwide campaign will be backed by a major advertising spend including TV commercials, marketing and public relations initiatives, an information booklet as well as billboard ads aimed at making people aware of the issues.

To kick-start this year’s efforts, the website was relaunched today by Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey TD. The site contains hints on how to stay secure when online as well as a downloadable public information booklet. This document will also be distributed by newspaper insert and mailshot to more than 1.2 million households throughout the country.

Since last year, the security landscape has changed: for example, there has been a rise in phishing scams that attempt to trick people into revealing confidential information or online banking passwords. Earlier this week Bank of Ireland raised the issue again and called for consumers to be aware of fraudulent webpages and emails aimed at obtaining sensitive customer information.

Spyware is another growing problem, as such programs are often downloaded on to a PC without the user’s knowledge and may send confidential data to an unknown third party. Moreover, computers infected with lots of spyware don’t run as efficiently as ‘clean’ PCs.

This year’s campaign also covers identity theft, where an individual’s personal information is used by someone other than them to commit fraud. In addition, the scheme will raise awareness of steps that parents can take to ensure that their children are not at risk when using the internet.

The public-private consortium backing the initiative has been swelled with the addition of new members including the Irish Bankers Federation, RTÉ and the National Centre for Technology in Education. The group also comprises the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Microsoft, Dell, Symantec, BT Ireland, Vodafone, Eircom, Internet Advisory Board and Ward Solutions.

By Gordon Smith