More users aware of cyber risks, but some complacent

Nearly half of those polled by security agency faced cyber incidents last year

A nationwide study by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has found that while nearly half of its respondents had experienced a cyber security incident and that awareness of its dangers is high, some remain complacent.

In the release of the third edition of the annual Cybersecurity Public Awareness Survey yesterday, CSA said 48 per cent of the 1,105 respondents had experienced at least one cyber incident last year.

The agency added that more than a third of the respondents reported encountering advertisement pop-ups online, which can be a sign of malicious software infection.

This was the most commonly cited security incident, followed by having their data leaked by a company, which about 15 per cent of respondents experienced.

Other types of cyber incidents included receiving a phishing e-mail, being infected by ransomware and having their computer or device controlled by hackers illegally.

The latest survey was the first time CSA measured the types and frequency of cyber security incidents that its respondents encountered.

When compared with results released last year, the latest survey shows that users have taken steps to improve security.

Last year, 36 per cent of Singaporeans enabled two-factor authentication (2FA) for their online accounts. This is 10 percentage points more than in 2017.

2FA provides an additional layer of security by requiring users to key in a code that is either sent to their mobile phones or generated by a token.

Still, CSA said the adoption of some cyber-security practices "needs to be improved" as their take-up rates have fallen.

The survey found that the proportion of respondents who had updated the software of their mobile devices has decreased.

 
 
 
 

Software developers usually roll out stronger cyber defences in these updates.

According to CSA, 80 per cent of the respondents updated their software last year, down from 83 per cent in 2017.

Additionally, out of those who installed software updates or updated their phones , only half did so immediately when the update became available, compared with 55 per cent in 2017.

The proportion of respondents who had installed security applications in their mobile devices fell as well, from 53 per cent in 2017 to 45 per cent last year.

CSA pointed out that this was despite the fact that a larger proportion of respondents acknowledged the risks of not installing security applications and knowing which ones to use and download.

The majority of the respondents, at least seven out of 10, showed high levels of concern about a variety of cyber-security incidents, such as having their computer controlled illegally by hackers, having their personal information stolen or falling victim to an online scam or fraud.

But at the same time, less than half of respondents felt like they would be hit with such cyber incidents.

CSA chief executive David Koh said: "The survey shows that while Singaporeans are concerned about cyber threats and agree that they have a role to play, most believe that they are not the target of cyber criminals.

"Cyber threats are part and parcel of the digital age, and cyber attacks will only increase. No one is immune.

"We need to improve our cyber hygiene so that we do not lose our hard-earned money and our precious data to cyber criminals."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'More users aware of cyber risks, but some complacent'. Print Edition | Subscribe