New research commissioned by Avast has revealed that despite nearly one in four (23%) New Zealanders being more concerned about cybercrime than physical crime and one in four (25%) believing that the internet is more dangerous now than before the Covid-19 pandemic, a lack of cyber mindfulness is leading many to take significant risks to their digital lifestyles.
According to Avast’s newly released Cyber Mindfulness Report, many New Zealanders are exposing themselves to unnecessary online risks and cyber threats through careless digital practices.
The research revealed some of New Zealanders’ worst risk behaviours include not keeping up to date on how to avoid online threats and scams (64%), using fewer than five passwords across online accounts and apps (41%) - with those aged 18-34 even more likely to do so (48%), not updating passwords after data breaches (28%) with over half (57%) of Facebook users and two thirds (68%) of LinkedIn users not updating after data breaches this year, and saving payment details across multiple apps, websites and browsers (50%).
Unfortunately, as a result of careless digital decision-making and low online scam awareness, nearly one in four (23%) New Zealanders have fallen victim to a scam, with the top types being phishing and smishing scams (10%), online shopping scams (6%), and investment scams (5%), including fraudulent cryptocurrency investment and business investment opportunities.
These findings come as phishing attacks are on the rise in New Zealand, with over 73,000 malicious URLs blocked by Avast in July, a 27 per cent increase since June. General malware and ransomware risks are also the highest in 18 months, with Avast Threat Labs data showing that the likelihood of New Zealanders encountering malware and ransomware is currently 28 per cent, up on the pre-pandemic risk ratio of 21 per cent in January 2020.
“Ultimately, whilst phishing, malware and ransomware attacks are on the rise, the number one cyber threat for New Zealanders is actually a lack of ‘cyber mindfulness’ when going online or using their devices, with many not considering how easily they could become a victim of cybercrime. The truth is that the online world is evolving fast and everyone with a digital footprint has something valuable cybercriminals crave – personal data,” said Stephen Kho, Cybersecurity Expert at Avast.
“What’s most surprising is that almost half (49%) of New Zealanders either don’t have digital security or are not sure what digital security they have installed on their frequently used devices, so they may not even have a first line of defence to prevent threats and attacks. You can’t have an ‘it’ll be right’ attitude when going online or using your device, it’s important to be aware of the risks of your actions or inaction, especially with cyber threats on the rise.”
Although New Zealanders have some bad digital habits, the research showed almost 2 in 5 (44%) would like to be more mindful of their online behaviour and the data they share.
“Practising mindfulness has become extremely popular of late with many taking the time to reflect during the pandemic,” said psychologist Jaimie Bloch.
“Practising cyber mindfulness is just as important, if not more so, with more people online than ever before and a growing number of cyber threats to watch out for.”
“Seve in ten (73%) New Zealanders said they often or sometimes browse the internet or social media and then wonder why they even started in the first place. Whilst this may be a natural behaviour, being more mindful of the potential risks and outcomes of your activities online and on your device can help ensure you don’t get caught out by a threat or scam.
“A good way to be more cyber mindful is each time you use your device or go online, take a minute to prepare yourself to be more aware of the activities that you’ll undertake and, before you sign up to anything or buy anything online, pause to briefly consider if you are inadvertently putting yourself or your data at risk.”
According to the research, other potentially risky digital habits New Zealanders have include connecting their personal phone, tablet or computer to public Wi-Fi without using a VPN (52%), accepting terms and conditions without reading them (82%), downloading apps without checking ongoing subscription costs (16%), allowing apps or online accounts to track their location (41%), clicking on links in emails or text messages without double-checking the source (20%) and signing in to online shopping or payment accounts (i.e. PayPal, Amazon) using the same login details as their social media or email (11%).
To help New Zealanders identify their risky behaviour, Avast has created a simple online tool that helps people assess just how cyber mindful they are, as well as providing tips and tricks to help them better protect themselves.
Stephen Kho, Cybersecurity Expert at Avast, also has five top tips to help you be more cyber mindful:
1. Be aware of how you are using the internet, including when you are using apps and websites; avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi, and turn off location tracking to protect your privacy.
2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) where possible, use complicated passwords that include a mix of symbols, numbers and characters to make it easier to remember, (e.g. B0bLov3sFootb@11), and use a password manager to manage all your passwords.
3. Be conscious and thoughtful about the information you are providing online and what you are agreeing to, and avoid saving your payment details on websites, apps or browsers. For example, only give your true date of birth when absolutely necessary (e.g.doctor appointments) and not to the next dating app or shopping website that you register with.
4. Resist the urge to quickly click through to new or unknown websites from emails, social ads or text messages and always double-check the source and the URL to make sure it’s what it says it is.
5. Always stay protected against the latest online threats by keeping your digital security software up-to-date.