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April 6, 2020updated 07 Apr 2020 10:30am

Coronavirus search trends revealed by Redscan

By Ellen Daniel

Around a third of the world’s population, or two billion people, is currently under total or partial lockdown, as the number of confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases reaches more than 1.2 million.

As a result, in some parts of the world, internet usage is up by 50% as many people work remotely and use the internet to keep in contact with others or pass the time indoors.

In light of this increase in online activity, cybersecurity company Redscan has analysed the most-searched for security and technology terms, based on Google Trends global search history data, revealing what businesses and individuals are prioritising and are concerned about currently.

The key coronavirus search trends

According to the data, searches for “business continuity plan” spiked between 8 March and 21 March. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced social distancing measures, with workers advised to work from home where possible. Searches for “remote working”, “collaboration tools” and “remote access” also reached record highs in March. Zoom is currently the most searched for online collaboration technology.

In terms of cybersecurity, Redscan’s data revealed that searches for coronavirus related scams were more frequent in the UK than those linked to Apple and Amazon, suggesting that users are increasingly concerned or experiencing coronavirus scams compared with those imitating major brands.

According to research from Proofpoint, 80% of scams, hacks and cyberattacks are now coronavirus-related.

Redscan’s data also showed a rise in searches for HMRC phishing scams. With the UK government announcing measures to support businesses and workers during the pandemic, such as paying 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month of workers unable to work currently, scammers are also capitalising on this.

In terms of businesses looking to protect themselves from cybersecurity risks associated with remote working, searches for “VPN” spiked significantly in March, searched more often in the UK than “Rishi Sunak”. “antivirus” also saw increased search interest in March.

Search trends highlight enterprise efforts to adapt to coronavirus

“Google’s search data tells a clear story of businesses trying to adapt to remote working and related security and technology challenges of greatest concern,” said Mark Nicholls, Redscan CTO.

“A spike in business continuity plan searches is hardly a surprise, but it is also troubling to think that so many are Googling the term now. It suggests that many businesses did not already have a continuity plan in place, and now is hardly an ideal time to implement one. But better late than never.

“Ensuring that employees have the tools in place to work from home has been a priority of IT teams but it’s important that organisations are vigilant about the increased security risks and put appropriate controls and processes in place to mitigate them – such as ensuring that cloud platforms are appropriately configured and monitored.

“At this moment, search traffic is so high for COVID-19-related phishing scams that it exceeds search volumes for phishing attacks imitating major brands like Apple. Cybercriminals are treating the pandemic as a unique opportunity to target remote employees, who may be more vulnerable to social engineering away from the protection of an office network. During this difficult time, employee cyber awareness training and proactive network and endpoint monitoring are more important than ever.”

Read more: Cybercriminals are using bots to feed coronavirus fears.