Overall security concern returns to highest recorded peak, but fear of bushfires, droughts and pandemics takes the nation’s eye off cyber and national security risks.
New research from Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS) reveals that Australians are at risk of neglecting their online safety, as natural disasters replace the data security-related issues of identity theft and bankcard fraud as the Australian public’s top security concern for the first time since 2006, according to the new 2020 Unisys Security Index™.
The Unisys Security Index measures concerns of consumers on issues related to national, personal, financial and internet security and is the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally. According to the latest research, the nature of security issues has changed in 2020: while concern about natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and pandemics has escalated, fear of war, terrorism and cybersecurity has fallen to the bottom of the eight issues tracked.
The overall measure of security concerns of the Australian public is 157 out of 300, returning to the 14-year peak recorded in 2017 and up from 155 in 2019. Australia is the only one of nine developed countries¹, among the 15 countries surveyed, to record an increase in overall concern compared to 2019.
Attitudes towards internet security out of step with reality
In the wake of recent state-sponsored cyberattacks, and reports from organisations such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that phishing scams are on the rise (the dollar amount lost to phishing scams increased by 190%² in May alone), the personal data and online safety of Australians has never been more at risk.
Despite the phenomenal increase in Australia’s reliance on online technology to live, communicate and work from home during the COVID crisis, security of online transactions ranks only the second lowest concern.
Organisations who enabled staff to work from home should be particularly nervous, with just 26% of Australians stating that they were concerned about the threat of a data breach while working remotely.
Ashwin Pal, director of security services Unisys Asia Pacific warned: “This period marks the start of a rapid transformation for organisations to move to work-from-home (WFH) models. Understandably, people were more concerned about their ability to access health services should they or their family require it – and assumed their employer would take care of securing data and systems in the ‘new normal’ WFH environment. However, for many companies and government agencies the first challenge and priority was to actually set up their teams to work remotely. Now many organisations are likely to retain at least some form of home or remote working”.
“People are the weakest link in security – every unauthorised app downloaded, no matter how well intentioned to assist with remote collaboration, just adds to the growth of shadow IT that may not be covered by the security rigour deployed across the rest of the organisation. Employers need to ensure their people have secure direct access to applications, are trained to identify and avoid malicious scams and phishing attacks designed to exploit the pandemic and can quickly isolate devices or parts of the network to minimise the extend of a breach – because they will happen,” says Mr Pal.
Top Concerns in 2020: Natural Disasters Jump to the Top of the List
The current top concern for Australians is natural disasters such as flood, hurricane, bushfire or epidemic with 57% of Australians seriously concerned about this issue, up from 43% in 2019. Concern about personal safety in the next six months recorded the greatest change in the last year, up 15 percentage points to 47%, while concern about national security in relation to war or terrorism recorded the lowest level of concern (40%).
“The findings reflect a year where natural disasters dominated news coverage and personal experience for most Australians – even before the COVID-19 restrictions were in full force. 2019 was the driest and warmest year on record in Australia marked by severe and protracted drought³, the 2019-2020 summer was the worst bushfire season on record followed by severe rainfall and flash flooding⁴ and the global outbreak of COVID-19 led to government-mandated social distancing restrictions, including international and state border closures. And it is younger Australians, aged 34 years or less, who are the age group most concerned,” said Rick Mayhew, vice president and general manager, Unisys Asia Pacific.
The Australian survey responses were collected during the early stages of the government-mandated social-distancing restrictions. Australians were most concerned about the nation’s ability to cope with the demands of the pandemic, with 62% seriously concerned about the nation’s economic stability and more than half (52%) seriously concerned about the stability of Australia’s health infrastructure.
Women Bear the Burden of Concern
Overall, in 2020 Australian women are more concerned about all types of security issues tracked in the study, with a Unisys Security Index of 166 for women compared to 148 for men – 12% higher. In particular, women are much more concerned about the ability to meet financial obligations and the impact of natural disasters (34% and 19% more women seriously concerned about these issues than men, respectively).
Similarly, more women than men are concerned about all types of COVID-19 issues, in particular job security (64% higher), financial security (46% higher), family health (26% higher) and the stability of Australia’s health infrastructure (25% higher).
“Many women have born the pressures of the COVID-19 crisis at home and in the workplace. They are the traditional care givers during sickness, the vast majority of nurses are female⁵ and they are more likely to be in roles with less access to government assistance. They also have a higher representation in many of the sectors hardest hit by the restrictions implemented in response to the pandemic: healthcare and social assistance, education and training, retail trade and accommodation and food services⁶,” Mr Mayhew explained.
¹ – The Unisys Security Index defines a developed country as having greater than US$12,000 GDP
² – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ScamWatch May 2020
³ – Australian Bureau of Meteorology Annual climate statement 2019
⁴ – Climate Council Crisis Summer Report
⁵ – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – Australia’s Health 2018 – 89% of nurses are female
⁶ – Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australia workforce gender stats
|Percentage of Australians seriously concerned about these security issues|
|Type of Security Concern||%||YOY Change|
|Natural disasters such as flood, hurricane, bushfire or epidemic||57%||+14|
|Unauthorised use or access to your personal information||56%||-1|
|Other people obtaining and using your credit or debit card details||52%||-4|
|Ability to meet essential financial obligations||51%||+4|
|Computer viruses, unsolicited emails or hacking||50%||-4|
|Overall personal safety in the next 6 months||47%||+15|
|Security of shopping or banking online||45%||-3|
|National security in relation to war or terrorism||40%||-9|
|Australia YOY Concerns|
*Identity theft and bankcard fraud constantly ranked as the top two concerns 2006-2019
|Percentage of Australians seriously concerned about these COVID-19 issues|
|Australia’s economic stability||62%|
|Stability of Australia’s health infrastructure||54%|
|My family’s physical health||52%|
|My financial security||48%|
|My own physical health||42%|
|My Job security||37%|
|The risk of being scammed during/about a health crisis||33%|
|My children’s education||26%|
|Risk of a data or security breach while working remotely||26%|