COVID-19 Leaves Brits feeling more vulnerable to cybercrime 

Nearly half of Brits (44%) feel more vulnerable to cybercrime than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report. Three quarters of Brits (74%) believe remote work has made it much easier for hackers and cybercriminals to take advantage of people. Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) are more worried than ever about falling victim to cybercrime, whilst 62% are very worried their identity will be stolen. Nearly half (46%) aren’t sure how to protect themselves from cybercrime. The sixth annual Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, conducted online in partnership with The Harris Poll with over 10,000 adults in 10 countries including roughly 1,000 adults in the UK, France, and Germany, revealed consumers across Europe are more alarmed than ever about their privacy, particularly those in the UK (62% in UK, 51% in France, 46% in Germany).

“As restrictions saw most Brits clocking up more time online than ever before (70%), cybercriminals have taken advantage with coordinated attacks and convincing scams. Cybercriminals have made millions from stealing people’s personal information and hard-earned money,” says Steve Wilson, UK & Ireland Director at NortonLifeLock. “The silver lining of the increased concern, is that many Britons (66%) say they are taking more precautions to stay safe online.”

In the past 12 months alone, nearly 15 million people across the UK were the victims of cybercrime. Brits who experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months reported spending an average of 4.4 hours1 trying to resolve issues, perhaps by wiping devices clean or trying to recover their stolen data or money. In total, this means a whopping 64 million hours were spent over the past year dealing with the aftermath of cybercrime, with an estimated £2.7 billion in financial losses.

Beyond the time and money lost, there’s also the emotional impact of cybercrime to consider. The nearly 1 in 5 Britons (17%) who detected unauthorised access to an account or device in the past 12 months, confessed feeling angry (48%), stressed (44%), vulnerable (43%), powerless (35%) and violated (35%).

“The stress of cybercrime adds up over time. This is particularly true for identity theft, where fraudsters steal your personal information to take over existing or open new bank accounts or commit serious crimes under your name. Victims of identity theft often suffer the consequences for years. For the 2 million Brits impacted by identity theft in the past 12 months alone, this means a lifetime of vigilance for suspicious activity on their accounts or against their name,” explains Wilson.

When it comes to identity theft, Brits are overconfident in their ability to protect themselves. 62% of Brits are very worried that their identity will be stolen. And although 63% feel well-protected against identity theft, 56% confessed they would have no idea what to do if their identity were stolen. Importantly, three-quarters (77%) wish they had more information on what to do.

On top of cybercrime and identity concerns, as many work, school and social lives have increasingly gone digital, COVID-19 has brought online privacy front of mind. A staggering 84% of Brits have actively taken steps to hide their online footprint (i.e., to protect their online activities and personal information), with 37% doing so because of changes to their lifestyle or work environment since the pandemic started. For many, taking action can be overwhelming. 52% say it feels impossible to protect their privacy online, with 45% admitting they don’t know how to do so in the first place.

Cybercrime is an ongoing threat. While no one can prevent all cybercrime or identity theft, you can take precautions to help protect your identity and privacy online, and doing so can empower you to live your life in the connected world more safely:

  • Own your online presence. Carefully read the terms and conditions before opening an account, downloading an app, or creating a social media profile. Be sure to set the privacy and security settings to your comfort level. To stay in control of your privacy, you should understand when, how and what information you are sharing – whether it’s your location, financial information or mobile number.
  • Think before you click. Be suspicious about any unusual e-mails, texts or direct messages on social media and stay vigilant about any messages that specifically ask you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or require you to provide personal information.
  • Prevention is the best protection from identity theft. Keep a close eye on your bank accounts, credit reports and any other financial accounts you may have. Pay attention to your regular utility bills and bank statements. Make sure to verify any unusual activity such as unrecognised transactions and check directly with your bank or utility provider if you’ve received an unexpected bill. Consider placing fraud alerts against your credit report or set up monitoring against your personal details being leaked online.
  • Know what to do if you become a cybercrime victim. If you believe that you’ve become a victim of a cybercrime, you should report it to local authorities and organisations like Action Fraud. This is important even if the crime seems minor. Your report may assist authorities in their investigations or may help to thwart criminals from taking advantage of other people in the future.
  • Use a security software from a trusted, reputable brand. You can help protect your information online by using strong passwords, avoiding clicking on suspicious links and more, but it is essential to consider device protection from a multi-layered security software like Norton 360. Always make sure to keep your security software up-to-date and that your device’s operating system is running the latest version. This helps fix potential vulnerabilities on your devices and helps keep cybercriminals at bay.
  • Read the latest edition of PCR’s monthly magazine below:

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