Met police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe sparks backlash over cybercrime comments made to The Times

Francesca Washtell
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Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has been the Metropolitan police commissioner since 2011 (Source: Getty)

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, sparked an immediate backlash after he suggested banks should consider no longer refunding online fraud victims.

While discussing how banks could improve security awareness, Britain's most senior police officer told The Times that the system of refunds "rewards" customers.

"The system is not incentivising you to protect yourself. If someone said to you: ‘If you’ve not updated your software I will give you half back,’ you would do it."

Consumer groups including Which? were quick to fight back.

"With online fraud increasing, this is an astonishingly misjudged proposal from the Met police commissioner," Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said.

"When Which? investigated last year, we found too often that banks were dragging their feet when dealing with fraud. The priority should be for banks to better protect their customers, rather than trying to shift blame on to the victims of fraud."

Groups representing the elderly and retired also criticised the comments.

"Blaming the victims of crime is no way for anyone to behave let alone the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. Keeping up with scams is almost a full-time job. Society expects the banks and the police to be able to keep us safe from this type of crime - if they're unable to keep up with the ever sophisticated nature of this fraud, what chance do the rest of us have," Paul Green, director of communications for retirement experts Saga, said.

"This is a particular problem for older people that could result in them feeling digitally isolated for fear of becoming a victim and then being blamed by those who they expect to protect them."

A Norton Cybersecurity Insights report released last year found that two in five, or 44 per cent, of UK consumers were subjected to cybercrime in their lifetime.

However, the survey found that almost the same amount, 42 per cent, do not take the time to change their account passwords after a security compromise or break.

Cybercrime is thought to cost the UK £1bn a year, although GCHQ has said that 80 per cent of such crimes could be better prevented by regularly updating security software and changing passwords.

New technologies, especially biometrics, could play a significant role in managing cybercrime and online fraud in the feature, argued the UK-based online identity-focused startup Yoti.

“Ensuring software is kept up to date is key in combatting cybercrime, but is just one piece of the puzzle. Using better methods of authentication is another way to improve safety online. The problem with passwords is they can be easily compromised and all the best encryption in the world won’t protect you once a cyber villain has your log-in details. Biometrics are set to play a big part in the future of authentication, which will use one or more unique personal identifiers such as face, voice, retina or fingerprint to prove identities online," chief executive of Yoti, Robin Tombs, said.

"In future, consumers will be able to prove who they are online using just their face, eliminating the use of a traditional password altogether. Logging into sites with this type of technology is much simpler. Users don’t have to remember long complicated passwords across multiple sites, and they are able to stay in control of their identity."

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