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Dutch lead the way in protecting themselves against internet risks

Dutch citizens come top in a study on awareness of internet risks in Europe, which showed major differences across the continent

The Dutch are the safest internet users in Europe across all age groups, according to a study of citizens across the continent.

The study by data protection company heyData examined how often users in 26 countries fell victim to viruses, phishing attacks or digital payment fraud.

It found that people in the Netherlands were the most internet-savvy and best protected against cyber security risks across two out of three age groups and ranked second in the third group.

The Dutch topped the 16-24 and 55-74 age groups and ranked only behind Finland in the 25-54 category. Overall, the study revealed that Italians were the least knowledgeable about the dangers of the internet.

In the UK, while the 55-74 age group ranked well, the younger age groups were more vulnerable, with 16-24-year-olds ranking 18 out of 26 and 25-54-year-olds ranking 22nd.

In fact, the research revealed that across Europe the 25-54 age group was least savvy when it came to protecting themselves online.

But there is significant divergence across the continent in terms of the awareness of risks.

“Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018, the issue of security on the internet has come under greater scrutiny,” said the report. “The standardised data protection of the GDPR is intended to ensure that European internet users have full control over the use of their data, but the results show that awareness of internet safety differs across the continent.”

Milos Djurdjevic, CEO and founder at heyData, added: “Even three years after the introduction of the GDPR, the security awareness of people in Europe still differs enormously. It is clear that while the younger generations find it easier to use the internet safely, the topic is also taken seriously by older generations.”

Citizens in Norway and Sweden, as in the UK, ranked low in the younger two age groups. The 16-24 age group in Sweden ranked bottom of the 26 countries, with Norway not far ahead at 23. In the 25-54 category, Sweden and Norway ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

But neighbouring Finland fared better. Citizens there topped the 25-54 age group and were second in the over-55 group, in terms of awareness of internet risks. Finnish 15-24-year-olds were ranked 9th.

Countries in the Nordic region are often cited as the most tech-savvy in the world, pioneering in the digital age. For example, Norway and Sweden are tipped to be the first nations to become fully cashless, with some of the highest percentages of new technology adoption and mobile banking usage in the world. 

Finland, meanwhile, has a highly tech-literate population with a leading tech startup scene, which is creating digital alternatives to traditional ways of doing business and everyday activities.

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