Brits remain unaware of mobile security risks, despite millions being victims of cybercrime

1 June 2017

More than 9.4 million Brits have been victims of cybercrime

  • More than 9.4 million Brits have been victims of cybercrime, yet only a third have anti-virus software on their mobile phone
  • Almost all Brits (94%) believe they should take data security seriously, yet millions are exposing themselves to greater risks when using their mobile phones.

Despite the vast majority of the British public (94%) believing that data security is important, only a third (34%) of consumers have installed anti-virus software on their mobile phone, leaving them at greater risk of cyberattack. This compared to more than half (57%) of Britons who believe in aliens.

These are among the findings of new research released today by Virgin Mobile as it launches the most advanced and comprehensive internet security services of any major mobile operator.

While Britons might think that they are security-conscious, their actions suggest otherwise. The study of 2,006 UK mobile phone users revealed that 9.4 million Britons (19% of mobile phone users) have fallen victim to online fraud or cybercrime. A worryingly high number of Britons continue to make basic security mistakes, such as storing passwords on their phone or using unprotected Wi-Fi networks for sensitive online activity.

Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online*, with Virgin Media’s research showing that almost 24 million Britons use their mobile to shop, and nearly 23 million use internet banking services. One-in-ten Brits (almost 5 million) have sent naked selfies to their partners.

Password storage

Despite these activities involving confidential or sensitive information that people wouldn’t want to get into the wrong hands, many people do not prioritise their mobile security. 17% of Brits, the equivalent of 8.4 million people, admit to storing their passwords on their mobile phone. Of these Brits, over two-fifths (43%) save passwords in the Notes app, almost one in three (28%) save them as names in their contacts book (e.g. “Nat West” or “John Lewis”). One quarter (26%) list them in their contacts book under celebrity names. Just one fifth (21%) store their passwords in a Password Manager.

However this laissez-faire attitude towards mobile phone security extends beyond password storage. More than four-in-10 (43%) people don’t use a numerical passcode to secure access to their phones, while more than one-in-10 (11%) admit that they’ve never changed any of their online passwords.

Brits are also seemingly unaware of the risks of sending sensitive information over public WiFi, such as in a coffee shop. Even among Britons who say that they take data security seriously, 7% have used public WiFi to send bank details, and one-in-20 have used it for “sexting” naked selfies.

Mobile security misunderstandings

The results reflect worrying lack of awareness regarding mobile cyber security threats. Despite increasing cybercrime, one fifth (17%) of Brits don’t think that anyone will ever steal information from their phone, while almost one-in-three (29%) say that security applications are simply not necessary on mobile phones.

To help its mobile customers understand security threats and protect them from cyber attackers, Virgin Mobile is offering all its customers the most advanced and comprehensive mobile security package of any major mobile operator, with F-Secure SAFE and F-Secure KEY Premium Password Manager services. It is the only operator to offer a Password Manager. These services are available for free for the first year on up to five devices, with a 70% saving thereafter.

Jeff Dodds, Managing Director at Virgin Mobile said:

> While Brits spend more time browsing the web on their smartphones than on laptops, our research shows a lack of awareness about security. Not enough people are protecting themselves from the growing threat of cybercrime on the very device they use the most. We’re helping to protect our customers from these online risks with advanced security software bundled into their existing plans.

Dr Jessica Barker, Director of and a leading cybersecurity expert, said:

> The British public are increasingly aware of cyber security and the overwhelming majority agree that it is important. However, there is a gap between this awareness and behaviours: most people, for example, do not take steps to keep the information on their smartphones safe. A driving factor in this is that cyber security can seem difficult and overwhelming.

However, it does not need to be this way and security online is increasingly important. With phones becoming more powerful and connected, people use them to do internet banking, shopping, sharing content on social media and even sending intimate selfies. This information can be vulnerable to attack, like anything on the internet, but there are lots of straightforward steps you can take to better-protect yourself and your data.

Dr. Jessica Barker’s top 10 tips

1.      Use a strong password to protect access to your phone: remember that you can use letters and special characters as well as numerical PINs

2.      Be wary of links and attachments in emails: if you’re not expecting to receive anything from someone, check with them before you click to download or open

3.      Protect your accounts: it’s very important to use a different, strong password for each account, which password managers can make much easier

4.      Update your phone as soon as you are prompted to do so: updates are often pushed out to stop your phone being open to hacking from known vulnerabilities

5.      Beware of less secure public WiFi networks, for example in coffee shops, because you don’t know how secure the network is. If you do use public WiFi, especially for something sensitive like online banking, consider using a Virtual Private Network** (research VPNs online as some are better than others)

6.      Set up two-factor authentication on your online accounts: two-factor authentication means you have two provide two pieces of information rather than one  – for example your own password and a one-off password that you receive by text.  It’s easy to do and very effective at stopping people breaking in to your accounts

7.      Back up the data on your phone: if the phone is lost or stolen, or the data becomes unavailable, you will then still have a copy of your precious photos and documents

8.      Be careful of apps that you download: check how credible and trustworthy the apps are by searching for what other people have said about them online

9.      Remember, if something is free, you are often paying with your data! Social media sites and apps sometimes want access to your contacts, your geographic location and more

10.   Your smartphone is a computer: you should protect it in the same way, for example by installing anti-virus software.


All Virgin Media customers can download F-Secure SAFE internet security on up to five devices for free, including tablets, mobile phones and laptops. The software can be set up on friends and family’s devices as well as the customer’s devices. The software is normally worth £79.99, and is available for free for one year, and 70% off thereafter, via this link on Virgin Media’s website: .

Key features include virus protection; browsing and banking protection; parental controls; finder and device wipe; application privacy; and F-Secure KEY password manager.

Virgin Media commissioned Opinium Research to survey 2,006 UK adults about mobile security. The online survey took place from 12 - 16 May 2017. *Ofcom report, 2015: **A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network. It creates a secure, encrypted connection, which can be thought of as a tunnel, between your computer and a server operated by the VPN service.

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.

The company’s dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds to homes and businesses.

Our interactive TV service brings live programmes, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games in a set-top box, as well as on-the-go for tablets and smartphones.

We launched the world’s first virtual mobile network, offering fantastic value and services. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business, we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable company, with operations in more than 30 countries.

About F-Secure

Nobody knows cyber security like F-Secure. For three decades, F-Secure has driven innovations in cyber security, defending tens of thousands of companies and millions of people. With unsurpassed experience in endpoint protection as well as detection and response, F-Secure shields enterprises and consumers against everything from advanced cyber attacks and data breaches to widespread ransomware infections. F-Secure's sophisticated technology combines the power of machine learning with the human expertise of its world-renowned security labs for a singular approach called Live Security. F-Secure's security experts have participated in more European cyber crime scene investigations than any other company in the market, and its products are sold all over the world by over 200 broadband and mobile operators and thousands of resellers.

Founded in 1988, F-Secure is listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd. | |

Virgin Media expands international TV offering to Poland, France and Russia

Lightning strikes Kent

Virgin Media Business leaves rivals in dust with 350Mbps as standard