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Concern over digital risk falls dramatically during pandemic

Brits are understandably more worried about the NHS than personal cyber security

The British public are dramatically less concerned about falling victim to cyber crime, the risk of being hacked, and safely using digital services than they were last year as people reassess their priorities during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to Unisys’ 2020 Security index.

The annual survey of more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries – including over 1,000 in the UK – sets out to gauge user attitudes to various security-related issues and create an index based on their feedback – a calculated score between zero and 300 based on concern about eight specific issues within the categories of national, financial, internet and personal security.

It found that the average person’s concerns have dramatically shifted in the light of the pandemic, with 61% of Britons saying they were concerned about the stability and future of the NHS, compared with only 41% who were concerned for their own health and wellbeing.

At the same time, as the government implemented lockdown measures back in March, the survey found a new level of confidence in technology and digital platforms.

For example, Brits are now less worried about online threats such as viruses, which dropped from 41% last year to 31% now, and cyber crimes related to identify theft, falling from 56% in 2019 to 48% now. This is despite a marked increase in cyber crime targeting remote workers and digital platforms during lockdown.

However, there were still concerns around areas such as personal data protection and privacy, particularly given the series of embarrassing government failures surrounding the UK’s contact-tracing app, although Unisys said it did see some evidence that consumers may be becoming more comfortable with sharing their data with public sector bodies, which may be a positive sign should the contact-tracing app ever become available.

“With the UK under lockdown, many Brits have been forced to embrace digital technologies,” said 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 to cyber criminals’ advantage, who see this crisis as an opportunity to exploit any gaps and develop sophisticated methods to leverage possible vulnerabilities.”

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The Unisys survey also reported that with lockdown measures significantly reducing face-to-face interactions, the over-55s were now embracing digital technology and becoming increasingly confident in their ability to keep their devices secure, and spot and report fraud or phishing – more so than younger generations, who tended to be less wary of such threats.

“Having been brought up in an analogue world, users over the age of 50 are usually viewed as technophobes struggling in the digital era,” said JP Cavanna, UK and EMEA industry director of cyber security at Unisys.

“However, the survey shows the opposite is true – they are now much more wary of cyber risks, such as SMS fraud and phishing, than the younger generations and are better equipped to face evolving cyber security risks.”

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