A recent YouGov poll showed that just 6% of Britons want life to return to what it was before the pandemic. No-one should be under any illusions that everything will return back to normal in the next few months. Even if offices comply with the latest regulations and are ready to receive workers, employees are in no hurry to jump on public transport in order to get there.
Lockdown has accelerated what was already happening: a transition to remote working and the use of Zoom and other online tools which allow colleagues to communicate and collaborate almost as effectively as being face to face.
Of course, the use of technology hasn’t been restricted to the workplace. Schools – or at least some of them – have quickly adopted Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and other services to ensure pupils can receive and submit work as well as attend virtual classes via video calls.
Consumers have turned to the internet to get everything from groceries to printer ink delivered, as well as maxing out their broadband connections as kids stream Netflix while parents attempt to participate in conference calls. Even appointments at the doctors have gone online.
While some things are slowly returning to normal, this reliance on technology isn’t going away.
Cybercriminals know this and have been ramping up their efforts to scam the unsuspecting with dangerous email attachments, fake websites and whole lot more. The data shows that this is only going to get worse.
We spoke to Jesús Sanchez-Aguilera Garcia, McAfee’s Head of EMEA Consumer to find out exactly what people need to be aware of as we adjust to this ‘new normal’. Here’s what he said.
The office may look very different
Despite the government gradually inviting employees to return to their offices, the UK saw remove working increase by 2.3% in the first week of July alone. Since March, McAfee data shows an average remote work increase on 9.2% across various European countries, and there are many indications which imply a continued increase in remote working.
There are a number of reasons for this. In the short-term, people will remain resistant to using public transport, and with social distancing measures still in place, once offices do open, they’ll likely be running at a significantly reduced capacity.
In the long-term, the likely reality is that even once social distancing measures are lifted, businesses have proved that they can function with their entire team working remotely, so the idea of expensive city-centre offices may soon become outdated.
At the beginning of lockdown, when measures like working from home seemed temporary, it’s likely that consumers put their online safety and privacy to the back of their minds. But now that we’re gearing up for more of a long-term transition to working from home, it’s a good idea for consumers to invest some energy into ensuring their home-office work is protected.
The best place for a consumer to start is by checking whether a Virtual Private Network is installed on their devices. If it’s not, they can ensure all their data, both stored and shared, is protected.
Home is where the class is
Children were slowly reintroduced to their school classrooms, but reduced class sizes, prioritisation of certain age groups and apprehension from parents around sending their children back to school, means it will be a long time until the return of classrooms as we knew them.
While a short-term solution for parents may have been to limit their children’s online activity, that’s not going to work in the longer term.
So, with screen time likely to remain high for both education and socialising, parents will need to ensure their children are protected from online threats. They can do so by:
- Sharing the experience with their children by sitting with them to teach, monitor and explain the context of new digital environments.
- Talking to their children in an age-appropriate way will also help familiarise them with certain risks that the online world brings.
- Other steps such as reviewing their apps, setting up a VPN, enabling maximum-security settings and using parental controls across all devices can help parents reduce risks for children.
Spending and money management will both move online
As non-essential retailers start to open their doors, the shopping experience looks somewhat different to six months ago. Social distancing measures are in place, changing rooms are closed and consumers being dissuaded from touching products or shopping in groups.
But once the initial novelty wears off, the long queues and less leisurely experience could deter the public from brick-and-mortar stores. They will instead turn to online shopping, which has already seen a 37% increase and will only continue to grow.
For online criminals, this means a greater number of shoppers and digital bankers to prey on. A recent McAfee report found that the financial services industry globally experienced the highest number of cyber-attacks.
This is why it’s crucial that consumers are clued up on how to buy online without putting personal details at risk. The best forms of protection are to:
- Check the source and think twice before sharing a home address, phone number or bank details to complete purchases or bank online
- If the source is unfamiliar, proceed with caution
- Always remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is
- Seek trusted websites: beware of copycat sites that look similar to major banking institutions, and visit the bank’s main website before inputting any personal information
The future: day to day life will remain largely online (for now)
While restrictions are easing, there is an overall sense of anxiety which may overrule the desire to return to the old way of living before it feels safe to do so. And while people will be keen to get back to certain aspects of life fairly quickly, there may be some activities that are better left online.
For example, a recent survey by Dynata found that 39% of people have consulted a healthcare professional online in the past few months. And why would people revert back to in-person doctor’s appointments right now?
The same goes for gym classes, house viewings and even cooking and language classes. While sipping a pint in the pub or catching the latest movie may seem appealing, when faced with the realities of jumping on public transport to then navigate social distancing guidelines, consumers may opt for a night in streaming their favourite films until guidelines are further relaxed.
What does all of this mean? The more ingrained the online world becomes in our everyday lives, the cybercriminals may get even more sophisticated in their tactics. So consumers need to keep their wits about them across all aspects of their online lives.
It’s important to stay alert to threats and ensure you are just online security savvy as you are with the latest technology and gadgets. Combined with comprehensive security software on all your devices, the future should be much safer.