Nearly a third (30%) of adults feel more vulnerable to fraudsters as the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a boom in internet shopping, banking and video calling, a survey has found.
The UK-wide research found 44% of people have used video conferencing for the first time and nearly a fifth (18%) are new to online shopping, since the start of the lockdown in March.
The time that many spend online has also significantly increased, the research suggests, with 22% of those surveyed spending more than eight hours a day online, up from 15% before the initial lockdown came into force.
The YouGov poll was carried out between September 30 and October 1, for Get Safe Online, an organisation supported by bodies in banking, retail, internet security and other sectors.
The survey of more than 2,000 people also found almost two-thirds (62%) want more to be done to boost digital literacy.
Get Safe Online has launched a new “code of advice” to help consumers and businesses around the world stay secure on the internet during and after the current global pandemic.
Recognising that fraudsters operate across borders, Get Safe Online has teamed up with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to launch a series of events across 24 Commonwealth countries, including Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Rwanda, over 24 hours.
Get Safe Online was also hosting a webinar for businesses and consumers at 11am UK time on Thursday October 15 to discuss staying safe during the pandemic.
Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, said: “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.
“Our dependency on digital has meant many of us are now much more vulnerable. 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.
“Of course, this is far from being just a UK problem. 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.
“That’s why we have partnered with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to work with 24 nations across the Commonwealth as part of our Get Safe Online Global24 event.”
James Cleverly, Minister for National Security at the FCDO, said: “The coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace.
“As more people use the internet to work and connect with people from home, it’s more important than ever that the international community co-operates to face the challenges posed by those using Covid-19 as an opportunity to undertake malicious cyber activity.
“That’s why we’re partnering with Get Safe Online and supporting their Global24 events across 24 Commonwealth nations to help businesses, citizens and international partners to better defend themselves against cyber threats.”
Here are some tips from Get Safe Online:
1. Choose, use and protect passwords carefully, and use a different one for every online account in case one or more are hacked. Try using three random words and strengthening them with numbers, symbols and combinations of upper and lower case letters.
2. Ensure you always have internet security software, often called anti-virus or anti-spyware, loaded on computers and a similar app on your mobile devices. Remember, smartphones and tablets can get infected in a similar way to computers.
3. Always apply updates to operating systems and software on your computer and apps on your mobile devices.
4. Never assume wifi hotspots in places such as cafes, bars and hotel rooms are secure, and do not use them when doing anything confidential online.
5. People are not always who they claim to be. Fake emails, texts and phone calls are a favourite way for fraudsters to approach victims.
– More information and tips are available at https://www.getsafeonline.org/