A CYBER security expert from Bournemouth University is urging Dorset residents to protect themselves from online crime.

Following the recent Peter Pan email scam and the celebrity nude photo phone hacking scandal, Dr Christopher Richardson, head of BU’s Cyber Security Unit, is calling for both residents and businesses to take steps to protect themselves while using the internet.

“Crime is crime, whether it takes place in the street or online, and there has never been a greater need for all internet users to be aware of cyber-crime,” he said.

In September, hundreds of thousands of people received an email which appeared to be from BH Live, the Bournemouth entertainment company, claiming they had booked tickets to see a pantomime at the Bournemouth Pavilion. The email was part of an international scam, which encouraged the recipient to download a virus.

Dr Richardson said: “The ‘Peter Pan virus’ brought the issue of cyber security a bit closer to home, showing even smaller (Dorset-based) companies are not immune.

“The perpetrators used a basic phishing technique to lure recipients to open the attachment, which installed a virus capable of stealing passwords and sensitive personal information.”

And he said the 4Chan photo scandal, which has seen hundreds of intimate pictures of celebs such as Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence and singer Rihanna leaked, is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to cyber-hacking.

He added: “These recent high-profile hacks stress the importance of ensuring effective cyber-security measures are in place for businesses and for individuals.

“Naivety is not a claim that can be made by internet users anymore – this is a global issue, in the public consciousness, and it needs to be addressed.”

Urging members of the public to stay vigilant, Dr Richardson said internet users should use different passwords for all online accounts, not click on unsafe links, connect to the web using secure Wi-Fi and keep their security software up-to-date.

He added: “Cyber-crime is not a flash in the pan, but a persistent and malicious problem.

“By being aware and vigilant we can limit the effectiveness and consequences of online crime and remain safer in our online world.”