Brits Remain Unaware Of Mobile Security Risks

Virgin Media Staff


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.

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. 

Jeff Dodds, Managing Director at Virgin Mobile


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, Director of and a leading cybersecurity expert

What next?

Check out
Dr Barker's 10 Top Tips To Keep Your Mobile Safe on our Digital Life blog

To find out more about F-Secure SAFE: click here to visit our Mobile plans page.

About the author
  • As the UK’s first provider of all four broadband, TV, mobile phone and home phone services, we believe in digital that makes good things happen, for people, communities and businesses. We will do everything we can to ensure technology is a force for good. This is why we’re committed to providing the best guidance, support and services here in the community.

Not surprising really.

Smartphones are powerful computing devices. Then add in that people rely on mobile banking a lot now, it makes them a 'juicy' target so to speak.

The more people invest their life and activities into smart phones the more those devices will be targeted. By both cyber criminals and thieves on the streets.

Unsecured / public WiFi will always be a tropth for people running packet sniffer programs.

In the case of Android, the Android archictecture has a long chain which makes updating most Android phones impossible. Meaning they become permanent security risks within a year of purchase.

Also, the vetting of apps going into the Google Play Store is very weak. White hat researchers have shown repeatedly how easy it is to upload  booby-trapped apps with viruses, trojans and redirect downloaders included in them.

Unlike Apple's IOS setup which pushes updates out globally to all supported models at the same time. Ease of use and things are kept up to date and secure. The IOS app store has tighter vetting too.

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