One of the main aims of the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic is to reach out to groups in society that may be targeted and fall victim to cybercrime, in order to begin a discussion and raise awareness. The Cybercrime Awareness Clinic organised an event which took place in April 2018 at Portsmouth Cathedral in order to discuss the threats of cybercrime with a group of older persons. Dr Lisa Sugiura, deputy director of the clinic, lead an active discussion with a group of 13 individuals who attend a lunch club at Portsmouth Cathedral. 

Dr Sugiura created a friendly and informal atmosphere encouraging individuals to ask any questions they had or to clarify points they did not understand, whilst presenting a factual presentation about the aims and objectives of the clinic and the topic of cybercrime. Emerging from the discussions came a wide variety of understanding and concerns around the topic of cybercrime. The majority of the individuals in the room used the internet in their day to day activities and found it to be a beneficial addition to their lives. These activities ranged from online shopping and banking to communication. However, a few members of the group spent very little or no time on the internet. One of the main benefits of the internet that was often discussed during this talk was the ability it provided to communicate with family and loved ones. The main apps mentioned were WhatsApp, Facebook and Facetime, the group emphasised their enjoyment of being able to see their family face to face when communicating with them. A consensus amongst the group is that the internet and the many apps that come with it can enrich their lives and provides new ways to stay up to date with current affairs and family members showing the positive social aspects the internet has.

However, rather promptly into the discussion a member of the group opened up about their experience with fraud, many other members of group also came forward about their first hand experiences with cybercrime. Many stated that this does create fear towards the internet but did not limit their use. What become evident was the variety of awareness levels, the majority of the group used appropriate protection when using the internet such as anti-virus programmes and knew what to look out for in phishing emails suggesting that members of the group had a competent understanding of how to stay safe online. The discussion moved on to how they can further protect themselves online beginning with passwords. Overall the group had an understanding of the basics to creating a secure password. In the discussion the main points to password safety was reiterated, such as changing passwords from the default, including a variety of symbols and upper and lower case letters, not writing passwords down and using different passwords. Many members of the group stated that they do write their passwords down as they struggle to remember the different passwords they have created for different accounts. Our suggestion was a password manager which the group had not heard of before in order to store and keep track of all the passwords they need. Further to this, the group discussed what to look out for in phishing emails which could contain malware. Many members of the group found this helpful and discussed in great lengths what to look out for in order to prevent being caught out by these fraudulent emails. Moreover, the question was raised as to what to do when a cybercrime incident occurred, in particular if it is hate speech online. We emphasised the importance of keeping any correspondence that can be used as evidence in their case and contact the police. Another avenue we discussed was that each social media app will have an option to block an individual.

This event went extremely well and many important issues and concerns were raised and discussed. Overall the group had an awareness and understanding of the threats of cybercrime present and asked some very interesting and thought provoking questions. Demonstrating a willingness to engage in the topic and increase their awareness with regards to staying safe online in their day to day use of the internet. It was refreshing to see how many older people engaged with technology and recognised the benefits, especially with regards to keeping in touch with family members and up to date with current affairs. This event provided unique insight into the opinions of the older population of Portsmouth and highlighted the benefits of holding these events in the future as well as understanding the concerns this group had and the improvements we can make to answer their concerns.

Ella Skinner
Cybercrime Awareness Clinic Volunteer