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Australian cyber crime on the rise during COVID lockdown

One in six Australians experienced cyber crime during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to new research from NortonLifeLock.

The NortonLifeLock Digital Transformation Report found that while many Australians have become more vigilant towards cyber attacks during the COVID-19 lockdown, it has not been enough to thwart cyber criminals.

The report says 15% of Australian survey respondents reported they were a victim of cyber crime during the first months of the pandemic.

The report uncovered the changes in Australian's online behaviour as a result of the lockdown, revealing that nearly 4 in 5 respondents (77%) 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.

 With Australians being forced to shift many of their behaviours to being online, such as online shopping and entertainment, many respondents (83%) 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%) 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 report, over a quarter of respondents (29%) said they are connecting to open/unsecured networks. Additionally, 2 in 5 respondents who were/are working at home during the lockdown (41%) said they have downloaded content or apps that are not 100% secure, while 44% 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% compared to pre-pandemic. In the case of those working from home, this number is even higher with 80% now using these platforms, compared to 41% before the lockdown.

According to the report, 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%) respondents admitting they now play games online, while subscription services also have seen a rise, as 1 in 3 respondents (35%) 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," says Mark Gorrie, senior director, Asia Pacific, NortonLifeLock.

"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," he says.

The report also found that Australians have quickly adopted new ways to shop since the COVID-19 lockdown, as more than half of respondents (57%) 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%) 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%) now paying for groceries and utilities bills online with their credit or debit card, an increase of 12% pre-lockdown.

Gorrie says 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 its 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," he says.

"Measures such as reading the privacy policies and default settings on a new app are more important than ever."
 
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%) found that the transition to working or studying required a significant setting up of home or work equipment. However, most respondents (87%) 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%) saying they would consider working or studying from home on a more permanent basis. New South Wales leads this trend with 84% of respondents.

One challenge for businesses is that 81% 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.

Although most Australian parents surveyed (70%) felt the transition to learning from home was a great experience, more than 2 in 3 parents respondents (67%) 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%) 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," says Gorrie.

"With more of us being encouraged to work or study from home more, its 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," he explains.