For this year’s Neighbourhood Watch Week, we’ve been celebrating neighbourliness, a quality which has become more important than ever during COVID-19. One silver lining to this pandemic is how everyone continues to adapt to new ways of keeping in touch with their neighbours, friends, families and local communities. 

Almost three months have passed since lockdown began, but thanks to technology our community spirit remains alive and well. Over a fifth (22%) of our members say they know more about their neighbours than they did before lockdown, and 23% are more in touch with the local community than ever before.

It’s therefore unsurprising that this rise in connectedness has led to an increase in community relationships and activities. Almost one in five (19%) members have joined local community Facebook groups and 15% have joined local community WhatsApp groups. Over half (56%) say technology has reassured them that we are “in it together”.

There has also been a surge in video calls among our members. Close to half (48%) are using video technology to speak with family, and a third with friends. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 42% have started using Zoom for the first time since lockdown began, compared to only 7% previously.

But while it’s energising to see our members embrace technology as a means to keep our neighbourhoods connected and our community spirit alive, it’s also important to understand that the more connected we become, the more exposed we are to opportunistic cyber-criminals. Sadly, one in five members (21%) have been a victim of cybercrime since lockdown began, and the vast majority 84% don’t feel confident in their ability to spot a cyber threat.

We want to make sure our members feel safe and confident online, so our Cyberhood Watch partners, Avast have prepared some simple, actionable advice so you can safely use the internet for communication, shopping, leisure and entertainment while preventing cyberattacks on our communities throughout the UK.

  1. Never click on links you receive from unknown contacts or sources via SMS, email, or messenger applications such as Skype or WhatsApp. Even if you think you know the sender, take a closer look at the sender’s address and the link itself. If anything looks odd, steer clear. Malicious links are one of the most common ways to distribute malware
  2. To defend yourself against the relentless creation and assault of new malware, install a strong antivirus and always keep it up to date, along with the other applications you use and also your operating system (such as Android, iOS, Windows). Many of these updates include security patches to prevent malware from infecting your devices
  3. Never download an application from an unknown source. Always stick to trusted sources such as the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Microsoft Store. Third party mobile app stores have earned a reputation for being rife with scams
  4. Don’t click on adverts that seem too good to be true. An ad offering you something abnormally great, is likely to be a scam
  5. Use strong passwords for all your online accounts, something only you could know. Use a mixture of symbols, numbers, upper and lower cases and aim for 10 to 15 characters in length. If this seems daunting, try using a reputable password manager or random password generator to help.

Please visit the Cyberhood Watch page for more advice on how to keep yourself, your loved ones and your communities safe: