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To highlight his work on cyber crime, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson visited a business that had a six-figure sum stolen by hackers in just a matter of minutes.

The Commissioner visited Tetra Group in Edgbaston, Birmingham, to see how the crime had affected both the business and its staff.

Tetra, which specialises in construction and facilities management, has since recovered and has words of wisdom for other local firms.

Cyber crime is a top priority for Mr Jamieson, who hosted his Annual Business Summit in Birmingham focussing on online theft and fraud.

In the West Midlands:

  • 13 per cent of victims of ‘cyber enabled’ crime are so traumatised they have to receive medical treatment or are put at risk of bankruptcy.
  • In just one month, there were 5,734 hidden computer infections across the West Midlands.
  • The most costly form of ‘cyber enabled’ crime was the hacking of victims’ bank account or banking card, with recorded losses of £757,549 in the region in just three months.
  • In September 2015, there were 2,534 hidden ‘zeroaccess’ infections [a type of Trojan horse virus that remains hidden and downloads other malware] in Birmingham, 948 in Coventry, 691 in Wolverhampton, 551 in Walsall, 218 in Bilston, 199 in Solihull, 182 in Halesowen, 159 in Oldbury, 113 in West Bromwich, 78 in Great Barr and 61 in Stourbridge.
Mr Jamieson visited Tetra Group to speak to one of its directors, Paul Myers and company PA, Maureen Symes.

The firm was hit by a Dridex infection last January, with a corrupted Microsoft Word document allowing cyber criminals to dodge the company’s existing anti-malware software and make 21 fraudulent payments to mule accounts. The ‘Mule Herder’ has since been arrested in London for the crime, which took just a matter of minutes to carry out.

Mr Myers said: “I always thought ‘it will never happen to me’ but this has totally changed the way I look at things.

“Basically they unleashed a virus on us. They could track our keystrokes and log on to our system. This allowed the criminals access to our bank account.

“It was just an everyday Word document. We opened it up, as you do, thinking it was an invoice or something, and it took over everything. We had the latest anti-virus software but that particular virus had only been released that morning and it beat it.

“We’ve upped our security measures since then: everything now has double authorisation, there are new computers, new warning screens, new passwords, new Wifi, counter signatures, standalone computers and laptops – the lot.

“It took around £100 for all of the above and I would urge all businesses to do the same. It’s no different to putting an alarm on your house – and don’t wait for it to happen to you first.

“The police were great. They were very understanding and treated us like the victims we truly were.”

Maureen, who unwittingly opened the Word document, added: “People think cyber crime is faceless and victimless but real people are affected.

“I was totally devastated: I was left shaking and I felt so guilty, so worried, so stressed. The whole episode really took its toll on everyone concerned.

“But the bank were so lovely and kind to me – they sent me a bouquet of flowers – and the officers from West Midlands Police were wonderful too, so supportive and understanding, speaking to me in plain English without any jargon.

“I have worked here for 16 years and I felt a deep personal guilt, I just kept thinking ‘what’s going to happen to everyone and their families if this money cannot be retrieved?’.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “I’d like to thank Tetra Group for allowing me to visit them and for taking the very brave step of speaking out about this sort of crime. Hopefully, their story and advice will prevent other businesses from also falling victim.

“Crime is changing not falling and it is vital we get to grips with issues such as cyber crime. We must understand it in order to tackle it.

“We also shouldn’t think of it as a victimless crime because it is not and I hope Paul and Maureen’s experiences go some way to proving that.

“Economic development is right at the core of what we do and what I believe is that economic success is one of the ways we can build a better society. This is part of my ambition. Tackling cyber crime and other crimes that affect local businesses is one way of achieving that.”

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