How to be cybersmart in 2020

Among the many additional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the relatively unforeseen impact it had on our online safety.

Just as millions of people were going into lockdown, the first three months of 2020 saw a 20% increase in cyber fraud as cybercriminals took advantage of the global pandemic.


The result was a range of hacks and data breaches targeted at big businesses, SMEs, public bodies and governments. Motivations ranged from financial benefits to causing state-wide disruption. Yet one of the biggest areas that we’ve seen an uptick in cybercrime are attacks against citizens themselves, which have rocketed since the start of the year.

Do you know how to avoid becoming part of these statistics? As October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month take the time to revise online best practices – here are three quick and easy ways to prevent being compromised online.

Look before you click

Many of us will already be familiar with the concept of phishing, vishing or even smishing, but 2020 has seen a big rise in these malicious activities.

For those not in the know, these are methods where someone pretends to be a trusted company or person that you know in order to extract personal details that can then be used to exploit you – typically financially. The ‘-ishing’ variations refer to the different ways that these can be carried out.

One of the emergent trends is criminals pretending to be delivery companies and to rob you of your details that way. This is a particularly sneaky route as it’s taking advantage of the fact that more of us are shopping online than ever before, in an attempt to limit face to face contact and transmit the virus.

The way to avoid being caught in one of these scams is to scrutinise every email, text, call and message you get in order to ascertain its authenticity. Some basic rules of thumb are to never click on any emails or messages that ask for financial details or personal information; don’t click on any links you aren’t sure are from a legitimate business; use antivirus software to flag any suspicious messages; and don’t text back, as it can allow malware to be installed.

Keep personal and professional separate

Over the last few months, many of us have made a concerted effort to keep our personal and professional lives apart – particularly as lots of us at the moment are working in the same space that we usually socialise with family and friends.

This is an important ethic to apply to work and personal devices too. BYOD – or Bring Your Own Device – has become a big issue over lockdown, with lots of people starting to use their own smartphones and computers for work-related tasks.

The issue is that using your own laptop to access work emails, if it hasn’t been registered by the company, means it likely won’t have the same rigorous security protocols and defenses in place as its professional equivalent. Your unsecured device could effectively act as a ‘backdoor’ to your company’s network since most attackers just need one access point to get into a business’ ecosystem.

If you are currently using your own phone or computer to access work emails, it might be worth speaking to your company to see if an alternative work device can be arranged. At the very least, by notifying them they will know to involve your device in security management moving forward.

Beef up and mix up your passwords

2020 has also reinforced the importance of password best practice. With the number of phishing attempts on the rise, it’s worth noting that if you use the same password for multiple logins and it gets taken, then fraudsters could have access to the whole range of your accounts – from your email through to the apps you use for delivering takeaway.

As such, it’s key that you mix up the passwords you use to ensure that if one portal is breached then it limits the fallout. This is where a password manager can come in handy – these allow you to create unique and strong passwords for every website. The best bit? It removes the need to remember a number of increasingly complex passwords.

For more articles on cybersecurity best practice and staying safe online, you might be interested in the following articles: