Published on August 14th, 2020 | by Adrian Gunning

1 in 6 of Australians experienced cyber crime during the COVID-19 lockdown

While many Australians have become more vigilant towards cyber attacks during the COVID-19 lockdown, it has not been enough to thwart cyber criminals, as 1 in 6 Aussie survey respondents (15 per cent) reported they were a victim of cyber crime during the first months of the pandemic*, according to findings released today from the NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report.

The NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report uncovered the changes in Australians’ online behaviour as a result of the lockdown, revealing that nearly 4 in 5 respondents (77 per cent) relied on technology more than ever before during this time. The report also looked into broader themes on the Australian population such as how many have adapted to news ways of working, the increase in entertainment subscription services and the impact of COVID-19 on Australian parents.

Australians are compromising security over convenience

With Australians being forced to shift many of their behaviours to being online, such as online shopping and entertainment, many respondents (83 per cent) believe cyber criminals have used COVID-19 to their advantage. As a result, Australians are becoming more cautious of cyber crime and nearly 2 in 3 of those surveyed (65 per cent) claimed they have become more vigilant about their online security during lockdown.

Despite becoming more vigilant, Aussies admitted they took more risks when it came to their online security. According to the NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report, over a quarter of respondents (29 per cent) said they are connecting to open/unsecured networks. Additionally, 2 in 5 respondents who were/are working at home during the lockdown (41 per cent) said they have downloaded content or apps that are not 100% secure, while 44 per cent admitted they are visiting websites that may be unsecure.

The research also revealed that the use of video conferencing platforms skyrocketed, with more than half of respondents using these tools, up 30 per cent compared to pre-pandemic. In the case of those working from home, this number is even higher with 80 per cent now using these platforms, compared to 41 per cent before the lockdown.

Screen time on the rise outside of work hours

Lockdown has seen Aussies turn to streaming and gaming to remain entertained while isolating at home. In terms of the biggest increases, online gaming had the largest, with 2 in 5 (42 per cent) respondents admitting they now play games online, while subscription services also have seen a rise, as 1 in 3 respondents (35 per cent) have signed up for a new account for magazines, books or a streaming service.

“With ever increasing options available to us for content and streaming services, it may be tempting to use the same password across all of these accounts for ease. Using complex and unique passwords is critical to keeping all your services safe from compromise, and best to use two factor authentication, if available on the service. For those that struggle to manage multiple passwords a good idea is to use a password manager. This reduces using the same password for multiple accounts and adds an extra layer of protection to your online identity”, said Mark Gorrie, Senior Director, Asia Pacific, NortonLifeLock.

Cash ditched as Australians turn to online and contactless payments.  

Australians have quickly adopted new ways to shop since the COVID-19 lockdown, as more than half of respondents (57 per cent) have increased online shopping, including from unfamiliar websites (nine per cent increase since lockdown). Australians are also looking to digital payment options to complete these purchases as almost half of respondents (44 per cent) are now using a digital wallet such as Apple Pay or PayPal when paying. The use of online payments is also on the rise, with almost 3 in 4 respondents (74 per cent) now paying for groceries and utilities bills online with their credit or debit card, an increase of 12 per cent pre-lockdown. 

”The NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report shows the increased reliance on the internet and technology during lockdown despite concerns of falling victim to scams.  

“This means it’s crucial Australians treat their online hygiene as seriously as their physical hygiene and not become complacent. As people begin to use new services, there is a learning curve as they may be unfamiliar with the privacy settings and leave themselves exposed to an attack. Measures such as reading the privacy policies and default settings on a new app are more important than ever,” said Gorrie.

COVID-19 has changed the office and classroom for many  

The forced changes of COVID-19 has seen many Aussies move to remote ways of working or studying and utilising their home as their office or classroom. The report revealed that nearly 2 in 3 respondents (64 per cent) found that the transition to working or studying required a significant setting up of home or work equipment. However, most respondents (87 per cent) feel they adapted well to the lockdown period.

In fact, many have seen a benefit to the new way of working with 4 in 5 survey respondents (80 per cent) saying they would consider working or studying from home on a more permanent basis. New South Wales leads this trend with 84 per cent of respondents.

One challenge for businesses is that 81 per cent of worker respondents indicated they had used a personal device for work purposes during lockdown. The line between office and home is now being blurred and the protection of employee personal devices is a key consideration to protect business data.

Lockdown increases parents’ concerns of the online risks their children face  

Although most Australian parents surveyed (70 per cent) felt the transition to learning from home was a great experience, more than 2 in 3 parents respondents (67 per cent) said monitoring their child’s online habits over COVID-19 became more difficult.

As a result of the increase in e-learning and time spent online, the majority of parents surveyed (60 per cent) were concerned about the cyber security risks and that their children could be targeted by cyber criminals.

It’s encouraging to see that the lockdown has made Aussies more vigilant and cautious when it comes to online safety. However, the NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report shows there is still a lot of work to be done in improving our personal cyber security practices. 

“With more of us being encouraged to work or study from home more, it’s important to put in place a proper cyber security plan or follow your company or school’s IT protocols to make sure your data is not in danger of being breached. For personal devices, such as phones, laptops, and tablets, it is crucial to have comprehensive security solutions that include not only anti-virus software but also protection against malware, ransomware, spyware and emerging cyber threats, password manager as well as a premium VPN for your online privacy installed. This will help ensure your data is protected,” said Gorrie.

Here are NortonLifeLock’s top tips to stay safe online and help protect your data:

  • Keep your VPN turned on. Unencrypted connections may give cyber criminals a chance to snoop on data being sent and received by your device. Using a VPN helps ensure the data transferred to and from your account is encrypted and unreadable.
  • Beware of COVID-19 themed phishing emails. Cyber criminals are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to send fake emails with dangerous links to employees. Here’s how it works:  emails may appear to come from company officials, government or health bodies and might ask you to open a link to a new company policy related to the coronavirus. If you click on the attachment or embedded link, you are likely to download malware onto your device. Don’t click on the link. Instead, immediately report the phishing attempt to your employer and run a scan on your computer.
  • Manage your passwords. Use two-step or multi-factor authentication wherever offered to help prevent unauthorised access to your online accounts. Always change your default passwords and regularly update them(every 3 months) to something strong and unique on your devices, services, and Wi-Fi networks.
  • Only use trusted sites when providing your personal information. A good rule of thumb is to check the URL. If the site includes “https://,” then it’s a secure site. If the URL includes “http://,” — note the missing “s” — avoid entering sensitive information like your credit card data or Tax File Number.
  • Don’t open email attachments or click links in emails from unknown sources. One of the most common ways people are exposed to malware and viruses is through emails disguised as being sent by someone you trust.
  • Always keep your devices updated. Software updates contain important patches to fix security vulnerabilities. Cyber attackers can also target outdated devices which may not be running the most current security software.
  • Back up your files regularly for extra protection in the event of a cyber security attack. If you need to wipe your device clean due to a cyber attack, it will help to have your files stored in a safe, separate place.

About the Author'

Adrian lives in Melbourne Australia and has a huge passion for gaming, technology and pop culture. He recently finished his a Bachelor of Journalism and is currently focusing on games journalism. When not writing and playing video games, Adrian can be found in Comics 'R' Us debating the pros of the DC Universe and cons of the Marvel Universe.

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