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“UK cyber security concerns in decline as COVID-19 scams rise” asserts Unisys

25 June 2020

THE 2020 Unisys Security Index finds that, during the COVID-19 global health crisis, UK citizens are more worried about national concerns and somewhat less about personal health or digital risks. Collectively, the UK places the infrastructure of the National Health Service as its highest concern during the Coronavirus pandemic compared to the average consumer globally that places family health as being the primary concern.

The 2020 Unisys Security Index has been put together in the wake of responses received from upwards of 15,000 consumers in 15 countries (including more than 1,000 in the UK) collated between March and April 2020. The Unisys Corporation has gauged attitudes on a wide range of security-related issues and created an Index based on consumers’ feedback. The Index is a calculated score from zero to 300 based on concerns around eight specific issues within the categories of national, financial, Internet and personal security.

The UK has maintained the same level of security concerns on the Unisys Security Index as 2019, in fact, with a score of 147 out of 300. However, the areas that UK citizens are most anxious about have changed dramatically in light of the pandemic, while the UK’s perception of its own security has also shifted.

The research highlights the fact that 61% of Britons are concerned about the stability of their country’s health infrastructure during the pandemic, while only 41% are worried about their own physical health. As the Government advised the nation to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, the survey shows how the UK has grown more confident in its new digital world as it strives to protect communities.

Computer viruses and hacking

UK citizens are seemingly less worried about online threats such as computer viruses and hacking. Levels dropped from 41% in 2019 to 31% in 2020. Perceived online shopping risks have also fallen drastically to 38%.

Cyber crime related to identity theft is also less of a concern to people in the UK. More than half (56%) worried about this in 2019, but that figure drops to 48% in 2020. This suggests that consumers are not as focused on cyber crime despite threats becoming more pervasive, with cyber criminals targeting the growth in remote working and the increased public reliance on online shopping during lockdown.

The latest figures from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, already show a loss of over £2 million just for COVID-19 related reports, with the belief that the actual number may be even higher.

Although concerns over Internet and data security issues have decreased for many consumers in the midst of the global health crisis (the UK Index score for Internet security falling from 161 in 2019 to 139 this time around), the idea of data sharing and privacy continues to ring alarm bells.

Public concerns have been raised over the delayed National Health Service track and trace app and how personal data will be used and secured. However, the Unisys survey highlights that consumers are more comfortable sharing their data with public sector organisations, such as the police service or Government agencies, as opposed to private sector businesses. This could well be a positive sign for the adoption of the tracing app if and when it’s made available.

Embracing digital

“With the UK still under lockdown, many Britons have been forced to embrace digital technologies,” explained Salvatore Sinno, global chief security architect at Unisys. “Consumers work, shop, use financial services and participate in social events online. Worryingly, UK consumers tend to be less concerned about how their personal data is collected and handled. Downplaying privacy and potential threats might turn out to be to the cyber criminals’ advantage. The latter view this crisis as an opportunity to exploit any gaps and develop sophisticated methods to leverage possible vulnerabilities.”

As the safety measures imposed by the Government have significantly reduced face-to-face interactions, the older generation has now embraced digital technologies. Over 55s are increasingly confident with keeping their devices secure, reporting fraud and using online banking services. Even more so than younger generations, in fact. For instance, compared to 45% of the older respondents, only 34% of those aged 18-24 who participated in the survey have an anti-virus software installed on their smart phone.

In addition, more than three-quarters (78%) of over 55s claim to be just as careful when securing their personal and financial details on their smart phones as they are on other devices. The youngest generation surveyed was less wary of mobile threats, with 65% saying they apply similar precautionary measures to their phone as well as they do their other personal devices.

“Having been brought up in an analogue world, users over the age of 50 are usually viewed as technophobes struggling in the digital era,” explained JP Cavanna, UK and EMEA industry director for cyber security at Unisys. “However, the survey shows the opposite is true. They’re now much more wary of cyber risks, such as SMS fraud and phishing, than the younger generations and better equipped to face evolving cyber security risks.”

*For more results and information on the 2020 Unisys Security Index visit: https://www.unisys.com/unisys-security-index/uk