Get Safe Online reveals that emails are a prime target for criminals
More than nine in ten (93%) adults in 22 Commonwealth countries are unaware that email passwords and access to personal and work email accounts are prime targets for criminals and other malicious actors, according to new research from Get Safe Online.
Instead, bank accounts have been ranked as the most important login credentials for professional hackers, despite the breadth of personal information provided by our email accounts.
The organization surveyed more than 5,200 adults online in February ahead of its Global24 event, in cooperation with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
The highlight of this year’s Global24 was a strategic conference with the participation of cybersecurity experts and local government actors from the 24 countries in which Get Safe Online operates.
Senior officials from the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific came together to discuss key research findings and share knowledge and practices on how best to prevent online crime among their citizens.
The findings and results of this Commonwealth-led conference will be compiled into a Get Safe Online Global24 white paper.
The timing of the Global24 event and research is particularly important due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the work and home learning restrictions that many countries have faced or are currently facing for the first time, as we see in the Pacific region.
With COVID-19 accelerating digital transformation, more and more people around the world have started using PCs, laptops, and other internet-connected devices for daily tasks.
Online platforms and services use email to provide security and access to private documents, credentials and other important information, from bank details to memberships. This is often complemented by two-factor authentication, where a user is asked to confirm access to a platform or portal through their email account.
Email accounts are therefore at the intersection of the real and digital lives of many people. This also means that they are a prime target for cybercriminals and other malicious actors, who attempt to hack, phish or defraud people’s lives and bank accounts through their email.
But despite email passwords acting as a gateway to vast amounts of personal information, only 7% of respondents thought they were a priority target.
Instead, more than three-quarters of respondents (78%) said bank accounts were the top priority for hackers and 5% saw social media accounts as a key target.
Although many respondents did not identify the key access point for cybercriminals, most are aware of the threat. When asked if they were worried about cybercrime and scams, the vast majority of respondents (88%) said they were concerned, with one in five (21%) admitting they think about it all time and more than two-thirds (67 percent) revealing that they think about it from time to time. Only 3.5% of respondents said they had not thought about the issue.
Beyond email, cybercriminals have used increasingly sophisticated techniques during the pandemic to prey on the public, including impersonating delivery companies or government organizations via text messaging apps or messaging.
As WhatsApp is increasingly used to scam the public, Get Safe Online asked respondents if they thought the platform was safe. The public was divided on the issue. While more than 28% said they believed the Meta-owned platform was safe, a further 27% said it was not. And more than four in ten (43%) of respondents admitted they didn’t know.
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, said:
Our emails are at the heart of our digital lives. With the massive adoption of digital technology during the pandemic across the world, this now means that email is more central to our lives than ever before.
Unfortunately, cyber criminals take advantage of vulnerable people and digital technology newbies to access their email accounts to steal private information, gain access to other important platforms like online banking account or cause general harm.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and our national partners around the world to help us exchange ideas, advice and best practices on how to ensure the security of our communities and communicate good advice effectively.
The scams and tricks used by cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated, especially during the pandemic and it is crucial that we are aware of the risks and protect ourselves from the ever-present threat.
Will Middleton, Cyber Director of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, also said:
As the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated digital transformation across the Commonwealth, it is more important than ever that the international community works together to ensure that people everywhere can use the internet safely, securely and in complete confidence. We’ve made great progress so far, but Get Safe Online’s survey reveals there’s still a long way to go.
That’s why FCDO is thrilled to partner with Get Safe Online and support its Global24 event. With the best cybersecurity tips shared over a 24-hour period and 24 Commonwealth countries coming together to share best practices, Global24 is a collective effort to make the online world a safer place for everyone.
Get Safe Online is an authoritative and widely respected resource designed to help individuals and small businesses stay safe and confident when using the Internet.
The information and advice provided – on its UK website at www.getsafeonline.org, social media channels, media activities, outreach activities and through its partner channels – is designed to be unbiased, practical and easy to be followed by all its target audiences.
Get Safe Online operates in the following countries:
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cook Islands, Dominica, England, Fiji, Grenada, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kiribati, Nauru, Northern Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, Scotland, Islands Solomon, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wales.