Cybersecurity Problems Before, During, and Post-Pandemic
William H. Dutton, Patricia Esteve-Gonzalez, and Ioannis Agrafiotis
We interviewed a set of experts on cybersecurity to get a tentative idea on whether the pandemic and its effect on working from home (WFH) caused more cybersecurity problems. The interviews led us to entertain the idea that cybersecurity advances over the years enabled the shift to WFH. Increasing numbers of employees began to work remotely – on the move and from home or decentralized centers – prior to the pandemic. Organizations were able to essentially scale-up their approaches to working remotely to a larger proportion of their workforces.
Nevertheless, these in-depth interviews left us with little basis for determining whether this enabling role was valid. We therefore conducted a global exploratory survey in collaboration with GrapeData that gave us a dataset to explore some of these questions. While not a random sample, as it was aimed at those likely to be working, our global survey was launched online in the summer of 2022 with the participation of 7,330 internet users across 133 countries. The survey sheds light on the perceptions of internet users regarding WFH and their cybersecurity experiences over time, especially in the recent years when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the working models for a large portion of the world.
We need to fully examine a variety of multivariate aspects of any results, but one set of descriptive results can be easily shared. We asked whether individuals experienced specific problems with cybersecurity, and here is what we found, see Figure.
Most individuals are not experiencing any problem, but the receipt of obscene or abusive emails is one of the most common (over 25%), followed by receiving a virus, spyware or other malicious software on their computer (just under 25%), and being a victim of a scam or fraud online (just under 20%). The problems are serious in that a lot of individuals have been the victim of one or more of these security issues, even though most have not.
We asked the same questions about before, during, and after the pandemic, and you can see that more respondents believed they experience somewhat more problems during and after the pandemic than prior to the pandemic, as you see below.
Is this real or an impression built on recalling more recent versus more distant events? We’ll be looking at our data in relation to a multitude of factors that might shape these perceptions, but it could well be the pandemic did increase the number of people experiencing cybersecurity problems, while also enabling more people to work from home. Both could be true. We hope to unravel these issues as our analyses unfold.
A fuller set of descriptive statistics are available here.
 Bispham, M., Creese, S., Dutton, W. H., Esteve-Gonzalez, P., and Goldsmith, M. (2021), ‘Cybersecurity in Working from Home: An Exploratory Study’. Available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3897380.
 See our slides on the basic descriptive results at: https://www.slideshare.net/WHDutton/changing-workplaces-and-cybersecuritypptx