UK Generation Z wants more emphasis on cyber security

28 December 2015 5 min. read

Almost half (43%) of UK’s Generation Z want more focus on fighting cybercrime than on real-world crime, research  by PA Consulting Group shows. When it comes to combatting cybercrime, the UK public expects a dual role for ISPs and the police, with the majority of people confident that the police have a higher cyber capability than criminals. This, according to PA, is an overstatement of the reality that needs to be addressed.

In the interconnected world of today, people’s lives are increasingly taking place online. Whether it is to read emails, work via a cloud, talk to friends via social media and mobile apps or to find new people and products on (social) platforms. With this increased use of data-driven technologies also comes increased cybercrime. Thieves are no longer just targeting their victims in the real-world; they will also try and often succeed to steal from them in the cyber world. Part of the issue comes from people not knowing that they are unprotected as they rely on the technologies they use to be safe, which is not always the case. Research by IBM, for instance, shows that half of developers are not investing in apps security and that 63% of dating apps are vulnerable to hackers.

UK cybercrime

In the 2015 edition of its ‘Cybercrime Tipping Point' survey, PA Consulting researches the British public on what they want from the police in response to cybercrime, finding that the demands on, and expectations of, the police in tackling cybercrime are set to grow significantly. For its research, the consulting firm surveyed 1,034 adults aged 16+ in the UK on their views on cybercrime and the role of the police.

The research confirms other research and shows that more than half (53%) of the population in the UK are has been affected by cybercrime. The vast majority of these security breaches, at 84%, are incidents related to online fraud. Only a third of these security breaches are, however, reported as 70% of victims neglect to inform the authorities.

Generation Z and cybercrime

Different degrees of risk
Generation Z or the ‘digital natives’, which are the 16- to 17-year-olds that have been exposed to the internet their whole life, are most prone to cybercrime, and 50% of them have already been a­ffected by trolling*. Although this is the case, this age category is less concerned when it comes to cybercrime than people of 55+ years old, which are less likely to be targeted, at 44% compared to 70% respectively.

Whereas Generation Z is far less worried about their online safety, they do expect an increased emphasis of the authorities on fighting cybercrime. Almost half (43%) say they want more focus put on combatting cybercrime and less on real-world crime. For the generation most worried, the 55+ people, this is true for 20%. People do not expect local police to play the biggest role in cyber security; instead they see a role for the national police, when it comes to serious incidents, and for ISPs (internet service providers), for less serious cybercrimes – such as online fraud or theft.

Fighting cybercrime

When it comes to fighting cybercrime, the majority of the UK public is confident in the law enforcement capabilities of the police. 72% believe the police have better cyber capability than themselves and 59% think that the police are more technologically capable than cyber criminals. According to PA, the public’s opinion is herein overstating the reality. Of the police analysts the firm surveyed for its 2014 edition of the cybercrime research, only 30% feel comfortable with their current skills and tools and believe they can identify and tackle cyber threats effectively. The ‘digital native’ Generation Z appear to have the biggest confidence in law enforcement when it comes to. Seven out of ten 16-17 year olds express their confidence, compared to 60% of overall confidence among all respondents.

Law enforcement capability

According to Carl Roberts, security and policing expert at PA Consulting Group, the police needs to address this gap between the public’s expectations and the reality: “[…] At a time when the police are having to make difficult decisions on their priorities it is important that they understand what the public expects and ensure that digital capabilities are being developed in a collaborative and efficient way.” He stresses that “they need to be clear on who should be responsible for what capabilities at local and national levels; how to improve victim satisfaction; and how to engage with the emerging younger generations who have lived their entire lives on the internet.”

* Trolling is an attempt to anger others to the point of drawing them into an argument or an off topic debate, which is usually done via the internet.