ONS report: internet use is increasing, security isn’t

Last week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures that show that despite 89 percent of UK adults now using the internet at least weekly, there is a significant lack of corresponding internet security awareness.

In its annual survey of UK internet access, the ONS found that internet use has increased across all areas, including email (used by 84 percent of UK adults this year), online shopping (used by 78 percent), video viewing (used by 46 percent on commercial services such as Netflix, 62 percent on Youtube and similar platforms), and online banking (used by 69 percent).

A particularly interesting finding is that there has been a sharp rise in the number of people aged 65 and older internet shopping, with almost half buying products online, much higher than 16 percent 10 years ago. This highlights the ever increasing presence of the internet in our lives, with all demographics moving to using more and more online services.

As internet use increases, you’d hope security awareness would as well. Unfortunately, the ONS figures show that this is not the case.

The report shows that, while smartphones have become the most popular way that the UK population access the internet, 26 percent of users reported that they did not have security installed, with a further 24 percent not even knowing whether they did or not. This demonstrates the degree to which internet security is at the back of our minds. As consumers move away from traditional computers and towards mobile devices, hackers will develop more mobile related exploits. How often do you hear people say how their mobile phone contains ‘their whole life’? It is essential that the population protect themselves.

Mobile hacking is of course a worry when it comes to the security of individuals’ data but, additionally, can be of great danger to businesses across the UK. With technology so integrated into our lives, many people use the same phone or laptop for both work and personal use, and a single employee’s device could be the backdoor to sensitive company information, such as customer databases.

Furthermore, mobile security, which the ONS report focuses on, only just scratches the surface. Whether it be on mobile or desktop, consumers’ increasing use of email, e-commerce and online banking will also put themselves and their employers at risk if they are not taking appropriate security precautions.

Email security is a perfect example. A recent survey we conducted found that 25 percent used a work email account to authorise access to other services such as games, productivity apps or social media. While this sounds relatively harmless, it means employees are putting their work credentials into the wild, and people too frequently use the same passwords for multiple accounts. Should one of those personal services be breached, as Yahoo or TalkTalk was, their leaked details could be harvested by cyber criminals to attack the company – a much bigger score for the cyber criminals than attacking a single person.

The trend in internet use is only going to go one way, which means ever more people – with varying degrees of technical knowledge – accessing and using online services. Individuals and organisations alike need to take action now to protect their data, and we at Censornet can help.

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