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Coronavirus is raising people’s fears of the digital world


One third of Britons feel vulnerable online, according to YouGov polling.

Thanks to the deleterious effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more and more of us are transacting important parts of our lives online. We spent hours in endless Zoom meetings, order groceries through websites, rather than fresh from store shelves, and head to the sofa for a night in with Netflix rather than out to the local cinema.

We’re spending more time and effort on digital platforms, and cybercriminals have taken notice. 

There has been a repeated, regular uptick in attacks, and as a result wariness of working and living online has reached new highs.

According to a new survey of more than 2,000 British adults, almost one third feel more vulnerable online to fraudsters after the COVID-19 pandemic has driven digital uptake and seen millions of people turn from regular to internet shopping, banking and video calling.

Fearful of online transactions

The reasoning behind the fear is obvious; as well as asking people how worried they were about falling foul of fraud while on the internet, YouGov also asked them how long they spent online now, compared to before the coronavirus shut down large parts of the global economy. 

Around 22% of the population spend eight hours or more online every day now, compared to just 15% before the UK’s initial lockdown came into force.

The more time we spend online, browsing the internet and accessing our key services through digital means, the more likely we are to fall victim.

“The global pandemic has been massively exploited by cybercriminals as more and more people use the internet and mobile and home devices to do work, relax, learn and connect with friends, family and loved ones,” says Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online.

Digital dependency makes us vulnerable

“Our dependency on digital has meant many of us are now much more vulnerable,” he adds. “Our defences are down, distracted by the demands of dealing with COVID-19. 

“It’s therefore vitally important that we all know simple measures to stay safe online. Our new code of advice will hopefully raise awareness and instil best practice.”

Though the survey only covered the UK, it is emblematic of a wider, worldwide change in attitudes and behaviours.

“This is far from being just a UK problem,” says Neate. Online crime has no borders – criminals can be located anywhere in the world and equally, don’t care who or where you are. They just want your money and it’s particularly prevalent in English-speaking countries.”

Tackling the problem at the source

The issue isn’t just one of people attacking individuals. Cybercriminals have long existed and always will. But it’s vital that we improve our digital literacy in order to tackle the risk head on and overcome it. 

A staggering 62% of UK voters want more to be done about boosting digital literacy. That’s because the people who are becoming victims are more likely to be newcomers to the digital economy and the online world.

According to YouGov’s survey, 44% of respondents admitted to using video conferencing for the first time after the UK’s lockdown in March 2020. 

A further 18% of people said they were new to online shopping.

It’s because of all this that it’s important to set simple ground rules to follow, and to browse the internet and use various digital platforms conscientiously, acknowledging that there are risks associated with behaviour online and that there are bad actors out there looking to take advantage. It’s only by informing ourselves of the issues and potential pitfalls that we can avoid them as we begin to settle into the new world of online-majority transactions.

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