Government study finds big rise in proportion of people who feel unsafe online

The first half of 2022 saw a significant spike in the number of people that feel exposed to cyberthreats

Credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

The first half of last year saw a big rise in the proportion of citizens that do not feel safe in the online world, a government study has found.

During June and July 2022, a survey of about 4,000 adults around the UK found that 45% actively disagreed with the statement “that they feel safe and secure online from harms like cyberattacks, fraud and scams”. This is seven percentage points higher than the 38% figure recorded when the same survey was conducted in the closing weeks of 2021.

This scale of increase was reflected across all age groups, with the proportion of 18-to-34-year-olds that feel vulnerable to cyberthreats rising from 29% to 37%. In the 35-to-54 bracket, the percentage increased from 33% to 40%, while the over-55s – by far the group that feels the least safe online – saw the proportion grow from 49% to 56% during the first half of 2022.

In between the two surveys, Russia invaded Ukraine, which led to numerous public warnings about the cyberthreat posed by hackers, as well as by the dissemination of targeted disinformation.

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Compared with late 2021, the study of last summer also found a slight drop – from 41% to 39% – in the proportion of adults that believe “that digital technologies have a positive impact on peoples’ ability to exchange and debate ideas, and to access and identify trusted and factual information online”.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, a unit within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

In a newly published report outlining the survey results, the CDEI said that the foremost implications for policymakers are that “consumers generally feel they have benefited from digital technologies, but there are important concerns” and that, thus, “there is more to be done” by legislators.

“Our regulatory approach needs to support public confidence and trust. If people know there are rules in place, they may be more likely to feel confident about digital technology deployment and use,” the report added.  “Our regulatory approach is seeking to minimise harms to the economy, security and society. While many respondents reported benefits in each of these areas, the findings also show that there is more to be done to improve people’s perception of choice, safety and their ability to exchange ideas easily and freely.”


Sam Trendall

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