Cybersecurity concept

UK cybersecurity agency tackles record number of digital scams

Image credit: Foto 118502277 © Awargula |

More than 2.7 million attempted frauds were interrupted by Britain’s cybersecurity unit in 2021, including fake celebrity endorsements and extortion emails.

A record number of online scams were removed from the internet last year. 

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said the number of frauds – 2.7 million – was four times higher than the amount removed in 2020. The rise was explained as a result of UK cyber experts significantly expanding the country's cyber defences to tackle a broader range of scams, rather than an overall increase in malicious content targeting the British public.

The work carried out by the group’s Active Cyber Defence (ACD) programme has been complimented by reports from the public of suspicious emails, texts and websites – with fake endorsements and extortion emails named as the most common type of scam.

The figures also showed that scammers took advantage of the panic caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, referencing services such as vaccines and vaccine passports. In total, over 1,400 phishing schemes themed around the NHS were taken down last year, more than 10 times as many as in 2020. 

“We know that scammers will go to great lengths, and indeed my name has been used to try to trick people, but as we continue to expand our defences we can see the tangible impact this is having,” said NCSC chief executive Lindy Cameron.

The attempted Cameron scam was a fake email purporting to be from the NCSC chief informing the recipient that the unit had prevented £5m of their money from being stolen and that they should reply with personal information to get it back. In contrast, the fake celebrity endorsements included a fake BBC “special report”  with the headline 'Jeremy Clarkson gives British people the opportunity to make millions from home', illustrated with photos not of the former Top Gear host but of the This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield instead.

Dr Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director, said the statistics show the “crucial interventions” the organisation can make to “take down online threats, deter attackers and improve our collective cyber resilience.”

He encouraged more businesses to “work even more closely with us” to improve the NCSC’s services that “take down and block malicious websites.”

The release of the latest figures comes as the NCSC opened its annual CyberUK conference today (Tuesday), where cybersecurity experts will come together to discuss key issues in the sector.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles