The UK government has announced a new £4 million campaign to raise awareness of how to stay safe online, as part of its National Cyber Security Programme.

The money will come out of the £650 million already pledged by the government to tackle cyber crime and make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyber space.

The Home Office, which is leading the campaign, is inviting bids from media, PR and creative agencies to work on a communications campaign with the aim of educating consumers and small businesses on how to avoid falling victim to sophisticated cyber criminals.

The campaign will be launched in the autumn, and will draw on expertise from Cabinet Office, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and partners from the business sector including Get Safe Online.

“The digitisation of the UK economy has made our lives easier and has created huge opportunities, but it has also created individual security risks as well. If we are to meet these new challenges it’s essential we step up our efforts to stay safe online,” said Security Minister James Brokenshire.

“The threat of cyber crime is real and the criminals involved are organised and driven by profit. By making small changes British businesses can remain competitive in the global economy and consumers can have greater confidence using the internet.”

The news was welcomed by members of the IT security industry, who highlighted that SMEs often do not have the cyber security resources available to larger enterprises.

“When breaches in security can cripple a company in terms of both financial and reputational damage, it’s encouraging to see the government taking a lead in helping businesses build up resistance to threats by equipping them with the skills and confidence to adequately educate staff on the ways to spot malware and hacker threats,” said Mark James, technical director at ESET UK.

Ashish Patel, regional director at Stonesoft, added: “£4million isn’t a paltry sum, and the British government needs to promote the fact it is doing everything possible to develop a safe trading and business environment to encourage investment.”