Report: 16.5 million Britons fell victim to cyber crime in the past year

Financial losses are estimated at a staggering £1.4 billion

As many as 16.5 million Brits fell victim to cyber crime in the past year, NortonLifeLock has warned, with the number set to rise due to hackers exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.

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The NortonLifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report evaluated the impact of cybercrime in the UK as well as Brits’ attitudes towards cyber safety and privacy. It found that 79% of UK consumers believe they do not have any control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, while nearly two-thirds (64%) find it impossible to protect their online privacy.

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Overall, the report found Brits are willing to put more effort into protecting themselves online, although 61% claim that it's "too late" for online privacy because their information is already out there.

Gareth Lockwood, general manager EMEA at NortonLifeLock, warned that this "too late" approach “could put people at great risk”.

“This is further amplified by the conviction that their information is already out of their own hands, as well as their willingness to trade off their privacy for convenience,” he said.

“Growing awareness around data privacy issues has compelled consumers to seek more control over their data and take some action to protect their privacy online. However, with over half of Brits (53%) saying they don’t know how to safeguard their online privacy, there’s still a clear need for education on how people can keep themselves, and their data, safe online.”

The repercussions of mishandling cyber security and privacy could have a significant long-term impact. According to NortonLifeLock’s report, financial losses due to cyber crime are estimated at a staggering £1.4 billion. What's more, British victims spend 64 million hours to deal with the aftermath of a cybercrime - an average of 3.9 hours per victim.

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As well as following standard digital privacy protection procedures, such as thinking twice about the personal information shared on social media, Lockwood advised taking extra steps in “the offline world”.

Make sure to shred documents and letters that contain personal data (addresses, account numbers or personally identifiable information) before you throw them away,” he said. “Old-fashioned “dumpster diving,” when identity thieves physically dig through your trash, remains a popular method for stealing your personal information.”

NortonLifeLock’s findings follow reports that hackers are using coronavirus as content for phishing emails. Last month, researchers at cyber-security firm Mimecast discovered a “COVID-19 tax refund” posing as official correspondence.

Another common email scam template used by hackers heavily resembles a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and asks the receiver to donate payments - in Bitcoin - to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. 

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