ONS Survey Shows UK Web Users Are Putting Themselves at Risk

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Internet use has risen in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, despite a growing web-savvy population, households across the country aren’t embracing stringent cybersecurity practices. 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), internet use in the UK has risen to record levels. However, there is a concerning lack of cybersecurity awareness among Britain’s web users.

In a survey published this week, the ONS found that 89% of adults in the UK used the internet at least weekly this year, which marks a 1% rise from last year. Since 2006, internet use has increased by a staggering 51%.

The increased availability of smartphones and the rise of online shopping, the ONS said, has contributed greatly to the statistics showcased in the survey. As UK households continue to reap the benefits of web connectivity, however, the need for strong cyber hygiene is critical.

Access to Services

Since 2008, the number of UK adults who bought goods or services online has risen by 25%. Just over three-quarters (78%) of adults now use the internet to purchase anything from clothing to gadgets.

The number of people aged over 65 has increased greatly, according to the survey. Almost half of this age demographic now make purchases online, up 16% from a decade ago and showcasing a highly connected, ageing population. The UK’s most frequent online shoppers, however, were aged between 35 and 44 years old and web spending accounted for 18% of all UK retail sales last month.

ONS Survey

90% of households had online access this year, yet despite a growing online population, cybersecurity standards have not been improving. Smartphones are the most popular devices used to access the web, with around 78% of survey respondents using mobile devices.

However, 26% of respondents said they did not have any security features installed on their devices, and an additional 24% said they had no idea whether they had security features or not. These concerning statistics suggest that a large portion of UK web users are putting themselves at great risk.

The ONS said that if this trend were to continue, it could prove to become a massive issue in years to come.

“This could potentially become a concern in the future due to a lack of awareness surrounding the importance of security installation.”, the ONS said.

A Changing Way of Life

Professor Bill Buchanan, Head of Edinburgh Napier University’s Cyber Academy, believes that the survey highlights the growing influence of the internet on modern day life.

He said: “There are so many things that can be taken from this survey, and it just shows that we are reaching a point where there is almost complete saturation of internet coverage, but there’s still a significant minority (around 10%) who are not online.”

Professor Buchanan added that the lack of cyber awareness is concerning, especially given the connected nature of our services and products in 2018. Online banking, in particular, has seen a marked increase in popularity over the past decade. Rising 35% in 2008 to 69% in 2018.

“The most worrying thing for organisations is that around 24% of users do not know if they have security applied to their mobile device”, he said, adding: “This must be worrying in an era of online banking and shopping. For me, I don’t carry cash anymore, and hardly ever use my credit cards.”

He noted that simple, day-to-day activities are now being slowly replaced by digital alternatives: “For my bus travel in Edinburgh, for my parking, for my morning paper or coffee, I turn to my mobile phone.”



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