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Cyberhood watch: curtain twitchers become IT helpdesk for neighbours

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For decades Neighbourhood Watch has kept communities safe from local crimes such as thefts and burglaries.  

Now they’re taking the fight online as they launch a new initiative to tackle cybercrime. 

The Cyberhood Watch will address the growing challenge that cybercrime poses to local communities who often don’t have a ready resource for information on keeping themselves safe from the latest scams, said the NW.

Research from over 14,000 Neighbourhood Watch members, carried out in conjunction with Avast, a cybersecurity leader in the UK, found that over a third (34 per cent) believe cybercrime is now a bigger threat than physical crime, and half (50 per cent) think the threat level is similar. 

The new initiative will provide online cybersecurity awareness courses to help inform and protect 2.3 million households across England and Wales.

With over 90,000 volunteers there will also be a training and accreditation scheme for local NW representatives, local informative events, downloadable guides and resources, and ongoing sharing of information about relevant emerging threats. 

Robin Sutton, 66, has been a Neighbourhood Watch representative for Cambridgeshire for 15 years and said the purpose of the voluntary movement is “changing a lot”. 

He said: “We’re getting away from this old fashioned notion that we’re a bunch of curtain twitchers, which we’re not. The crime prevention side is extremely important. 

“We’ve dealing with more modern crimes and things like domestic abuse, social media and cyber crime and modern slavery.” 

The majority of cyber crimes, according to the research,  were kept secret by the victims with only 30 per cent reporting it to the police and over a third (34 per cent) feel foolish and embarrassed. 

The retired Headteacher explained: “People can be in a very vulnerable position, perhaps a partner has died or their lonely and if someone tries a scam at least it’s someone to talk to. 

“On top of falling victim to a scam they lose their life’s savings or a lot of money and then they’re ashamed of it and go into a downward spiral.” 

Mr Sutton’s role as a representative hopes to tackle this so he can be the “trusted” member of the community. 

He said: “If you’ve got a question or your stuck with a computer or you think you might be looking at a scam email then you’ve got somebody in the road you live in that you can turn to and say what do I do about this, is it something that I should be worried about?” 

Mr Sutton currently talks to the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to ensure that any recent scams are flagged to community members using his local website and Facebook. 

John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch said the new initiative might “surprise” people who think NW focuses “solely on physical crime prevention”. 

He said: “Neighbourhood Watch is about making sure that fewer people feel afraid, vulnerable or isolated in the place where they live, and in recent years that means helping members learn how to protect themselves, and their local community against cybercrime. 

“This campaign will make a very real impact to our members’ lives, so they can feel more assured and safe when doing things like online shopping, communicating with their family on social media or managing their money.”

Peter Turner, Senior Vice President, Consumer Security, Avast, said that being safe online “should be a basic right for all”. 

Avast currently have free versions of their cybersecurity products “so that everyone can get great online protection at no cost”. 

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