Northern Ireland internet users ‘worst in UK for cyber security’

Northern Ireland is the riskiest area of the UK when it comes to how people approach cybersecurity, new research claims.

Cybersecurity firm ESET found that almost a third of people (29%) in Northern Ireland have had a social media or email account hacked, the highest number in any part of the UK.

Almost a third of people in Northern Ireland have had their email or social media accounts hacked

Almost a third of people in Northern Ireland have had their email or social media accounts hacked

ESET’s research into online security habits also suggests that more than half of UK internet users (51%) have clicked on a link in a spam email.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity expert at ESET UK said internet users still needed to be more aware of how they interacted with emails and the information they share online.

“Email scams are only growing in frequency and it is becoming much harder to spot the good from the bad as criminals become more sophisticated in their art of deception,” he said.

“My advice? Never click on or download anything from someone who you aren’t expecting something from and always look at the sender’s email address. If a company emails to say they have locked you out of your account, ask yourself why they would before clicking through in a fit of panic.”

The research also suggests other internet security bad habits remain prominent among UK internet users, with 36% of those asked saying they had never changed their default privacy settings on social media.

It found that people in East Anglia and the South West were the least likely to have ever changed their email password, with 44% nationally admitting they never or rarely change it.

Northern Ireland users were also named as the most likely to use their bank PIN or birthday date as the code to unlock their phone.

“Using your bank PIN code is certainly a risky move – but perhaps not as risky as the individuals that don’t even have password protection on their phones,” Mr Moore said.

“We sometimes forget how much valuable information is stored on our mobiles and you need to make sure you keep that safe with a unique password, that only you know.”

The security expert also warned against over-sharing on social media, particularly given the number of online friends who have never met in real life.

ESET’s report suggests that UK Facebook users would, on average, meet just 45% of their Facebook friends face-to-face.

In contrast, Scottish users would be happy meeting up with 52% of their online friends.

“We share so much information about our personal lives online – our birthdays, photos of our children, where we go on holiday – but do we ever stop and think who we might be sharing it with and consider how well we actually know our ‘friends’?,” Mr Moore said.

“If that information falls into the wrong hands, it could end in disaster.”