People and businesses should be on "red alert 24/7" in the wake of the war in Ukraine, a Suffolk cyber-security expert has said.

According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau cybercrime cost people and businesses in Suffolk £14.6million in 2021 – up from £2.5million the year before.

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, spy chiefs at the National Cyber Security Centre have called on "organisations to bolster their online defences".

They warned that "historically, cyber attacks on Ukraine have had wider international consequences".

The Japanese government is currently investigating whether Russia is behind a cyber-attack that caused Toyota to stop producing cars on Tuesday.

And in a report published in December, the NCSC cited the Russian state and organised criminal gangs based in Russia as two of the key cyber-security threats to the UK.

Jennifer Fraser, from Bury St Edmunds-based cyber-security experts Xperience, said: "If Russia has put a lot more effort into their hacking assets at the moment, which is what I suspect the NCSC is worried about, then they'll have a lot more outgoing hacks.

"I think it's going to be very telling over the next month.

"We were already seeing a record high number of ransomware attacks."

Mrs Fraser said many of these attacks were being carried out by criminal gangs.

"People should always be on red alert at the moment," she said. "It's absolutely rife with malware out there.

"I've been in cybersecurity now for nine years and even I have times where I'm second-guessing myself because some of the hacks that come through are so sophisticated.

The war in Ukraine, she said, is the first time a cyberwar has been fought alongside a conventional war.

"As well as all of the feet on the ground, it's very much cyberwarfare too," she said.

Detective superintendent Paul Lopez from the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre said: “While we are unaware of any current specific cyber threats to UK organisations in relation to events in and around Ukraine, this is a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring businesses protect themselves from cyber security threats and reduce the risk or impact of a cyber-attack.”

How can businesses improve their cyber-security?

  • Check your backup systems are running correctly and that you have an offline copy of your backup
  • Verify access controls: removing old accounts, checking staff are using strong, unique passwords, and enabling multi-factor authentication if possible
  • Check your system patching and ensure that all devices, business systems, and internet-facing services are patched
  • Review and update your incident response plan
  • Brief your staff: ensure that colleagues across the organisation understand the importance of cyber security and how to report any suspicious activity