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Safe and sound?

Safe and sound?

The latest figures from Ofcom show that adults in the UK are now spending more than a quarter of their waking day online, with lockdown restrictions forcing people to find alternative ways to stay in touch and video-sharing services such as TikTok enjoying an explosion in popularity.

But while four hours a day may seem a lot to some observers – and this average has increased by almost an hour year-on-year – it sounds like small fry to anyone with a desk-based job who can easily clock up double that, and that’s without including internet access outside office hours. Given how much of our lives are now conducted online, it is vital we are taking the right steps to protect ourselves, and hope that the companies we entrust with our data are doing the same.

We usually associate cyber attacks with banks and financial institutions as criminals attempt to get hold of lucrative information directly, but sophisticated scammers are adept at piecing together data from a number of sources to get what they want. The high-profile ransomware attack on GPS and fitness-tracker company Garmin last week seemed somewhat leftfield at first – what could a hacker possibly want with millions of peoples’ maximum heart rates? – but paralysing a company from operating (even employees’ emails were frozen) is enough to blackmail them with. The company itself was careful not to reference any potential bribery attempts in its communications, but social media was alive with rumours to the contrary.

EasyJet fell foul of a cyber attack back in May when the personal information of nine million customers were accessed, although only a small fraction of these had credit card detail stolen. The budget airline was heralded for its prompt response to the incident, but also for striking the right tone; factual and apologetic. While companies may not want to spook customers further by being too explicit about what has occurred, they equally can not afford to upset them further with vague summaries.

These two cases also highlight the need for circumspection at all times. We are rightly careful with our banking security, be it shielding our pin, not sharing account details or using a multitude of passwords and authentication techniques, but the nature of these recent incidents show that hackers are coming for us in our leisure time too. Recording a new personal best or booking a holiday are supposed to be moments of real joy, but scammers are never far away from raining on your parade. News even broke recently of a Premier League transfer that nearly became a high-profile victim of a hacking attempt.

As large swathes of the nation continue to work remotely and time spent online remains even higher than usual, it is vitally important to keep your wits about you and only deal with companies that you trust have the correct procedures and protocols in place. The World Economic Forum has called on companies – in particular fintechs – to adopt a common approach to cybersecurity as part of what it is calling The Great Reset and consumers themselves should be minded to follow some of the same principles.

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