More than one in five UK workers feel more vulnerable to cyber crime since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to PwC survey

  • 35% of people cite stress or fatigue as a reason they feel more vulnerable to a cyber crime 

  • 19% of people working from home during the pandemic do not feel that they have the necessary skills and training to keep safe from a cyber crime

More than one in five (21%) UK workers feel more vulnerable to cyber crime since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to a new cyber security survey from PwC. Of those people, 35% cite stress or fatigue and 17% cite working in isolation as a reason that they feel more vulnerable. The survey of over 1,200 people currently in work in the UK was conducted in September of this year. 

Daisy McCartney, Cyber Security Culture and Behaviour Lead, PwC said: “Cyber criminals are above all opportunistic and we are seeing them use the fear, uncertainty and stress around COVID-19 to target their victims and play on their emotions. As COVID-19 continues to dominate the news agenda, messaging related to vaccines, cures and financial relief will likely be used to target people.

“It is therefore understandable that people are feeling vulnerable to cyber crime, and according to our survey, 19% of people working from home during the pandemic do not feel that they have the necessary skills and training to keep safe from a cyber attack. However, people should not feel helpless, there are simple steps they can take to protect themselves and just gaining an awareness of how criminals might seek to target them is a good start.

“Employers also have a responsibility to equip their staff with the knowledge and skills they need during this difficult time. With many people not being physically located with their teams, while working from home, it is especially important for IT and cyber security teams to make security easy for staff, embed it in the ways they work, and provide them with as much support as they can.”

Increase in potential cyber crimes

Respondents of the survey are not only feeling more vulnerable, but they are also noticing more criminal activity since the outbreak of COVID-19. When asked whether they had personally noticed an increase in speculative criminal activity, such as suspicious emails or malicious adverts and links, 32% of workers replied that they had.

In addition, 22% of respondents feel more vulnerable to a cyber attack when sharing personal details for contact tracing reasons with restaurants or other hospitality venues.

Chris Gaines, Lead Cyber Security Partner, PwC said: “We have seen a spike in cyber security incidents this year with criminals exploiting the challenges that people and organisations are facing from COVID-19. Many of these incidents were linked to ransomware attacks and some of them were accompanied by data breaches. Analysis by our Threat Intelligence team has shown that the pace and frequency of ransomware attacks is rising all the time.

“It’s not all bad news though, technology is advancing all the time to combat cyber criminals. This survey was conducted before the introduction of the government's new NHS Test and Trace app which will make contact tracing more secure and will hopefully allay some of the public’s fears.”


Notes to editors

About the survey

Polling conducted by Opinium who interviewed 1,235 working adults online between 4th and 8th September 2020. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria to match the demographics of the UK working adult population.

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About PwC UK’s cyber security team

PwC UK’s cyber security team is passionate about building a secure digital society. We are in a unique position to work with organisations to drive a tangible difference to their cyber security and are recognised by Forrester as a leading adviser in this area. We also have a role to play in researching and disrupting both our industry and the threat actors who target our society.

To do so we work with business leaders, government, educators, regulators and industry groups.

Through our research and security intelligence, we can identify emerging cyber security risks and the evolution of existing threats. Our ability to connect deep technical insight with our knowledge of business and people means we can build understanding of the security frontline in the boardroom. This provides the clarity needed to lead your organisation securely and effectively. 

We work alongside our clients to embed cyber security throughout their organisation: building resilience, protecting sensitive data, and enabling them to focus on achieving their ambitions. 

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Chris French

Manager, media relations, PwC United Kingdom

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