As Christmas approaches, Devon and Cornwall Police are encouraging people to take five minutes to protect themselves against cybercrime.

Members and staff at West Devon Borough Council, along with staff from partner agencies recently took part in training sessions run by the Community Safety Partnership to raise awareness of cybercrime and how to tackle it.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that cybercrime was one of the most common offences committed in 2016, with an estimated 2 million incidents, compared to 686,000 burglary offences.

And while householders often take simple precautions against burglary such as installing double locks or deadbolts, just 28% of people in the south west follow the latest advice regarding password strength.

Cllr Robin Musgrave, Ward Member for Bere Ferrers and Community Safety Partnership Representative, said: "Living in such a rural area as West Devon means it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security regarding cybercrime, but sadly it's as much an issue here as in any big city. Thankfully there are a number of steps that residents can take to protect themselves, and it's important to make sure that people are aware of these."

The most common types of cybercrime reported in the south west are "Phishing" and "Spearphishing" attacks. Emails are sent by cyber criminals with the intent of getting the recipient to reveal information to the sender. Emails often request login details for internet banking websites (phishing) or may even appear to be from a friend or family member claiming to be in trouble and requesting financial assistance (spearphishing). Your bank and other reputable companies will not ask for this information via email.

A strong password is one of the simplest methods of protecting yourself and your business from cybercrime. Following these six simple steps can make your password more secure:

  • Make a password as long as possible - the more characters in a password, the harder it will be to crack.
  • Use different types of characters, such as punctuation marks, symbols and numbers
  • Try not to include dictionary words. If you have trouble remembering complex passwords, try replacing a letter with a symbol - £ for E, $ for S and so on.
  • Consider using three random words grouped together, such as "DogPaperKey" or lyrics from a favourite song "somewherebeyondthesea."
  • Use different passwords for different accounts. If one password is compromised at least only one account can be hacked.
  • Many people use birthdays, favourite sports teams or pet names for their passwords, but chances are that you have posted this same information online at some point; even if it was years ago, cyber criminals could find this information and use it to their advantage.

Small businesses in the south west are particularly at risk, as they face difficulties balancing cybercrime prevention and training with resources available. These resources may be further stretched during this busy time of year, leading to a greater chance of error.

Residents and businesses alike can find out more about cybercrime and how to protect themselves by visiting or