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How COVID-19 is affecting online traffic – and other graphs

What a year.

Life is being reshaped by lockdowns and social distancing, but online activities are changing just as fast.

The sharp transformations are also stretching companies’ agility to adapt to the new user behavior, needs, and requirements stemming from the Coronavirus crisis.

nudata is constantly monitoring its client’s traffic to help companies serve their users better while blocking online threats. It surprises no one that, as more people stay home and practice social distancing – your correspondent included – online user behavior is changing fast.

Today, we are publishing a summary of the most relevant online traffic and user behavior changes happening across the industries within the nudata network, to help you make sense of the current situation. All the graphs depict volumes from January 23rd to March 23rd of 2020, with activity taking place at any point during their account session; from account creation and login to rewards, money transfer, or transaction. We have also split the traffic by industries: travel, events, financial institution, and eCommerce.

Is the overall traffic across industries changing drastically?

No. The overall traffic across industries during the different country lockdowns and restrictions has remained stable. It is not until more countries joined the lockdowns around early March that we saw a small decrease in the overall traffic volume. The stability, however, rather than a sign of an unchanging reality, is the result of users moving from one industry to the other. We’ll get into that later.

COVID_All traffic_Timeline_02

Retail traffic growing thanks to online shipping

Online shipping has become the lifeblood for retail companies after physical stores had to close their doors temporarily. This is especially true for those offering food, health goods, and office or work-from-home supplies. Some of these companies have seen their traffic go up as users have no other choice but to purchase goods through their remote devices.

ecommerce traffic COVID-19

Travel industry traffic decreasing but showing some spikes

As it is expected, travel and airline companies have seen their users move away from sunny holidays to staycations. Although travel and airline companies saw some key spikes in traffic, they were not as much from users buying discounted trips but from customers accessing their accounts to reschedule or cancel upcoming trips. The spikes in the travel industry are also linked to those travelers returning home to weather the crisis with their loved ones.

This behavior is evident in the chart below, where the traffic volume slows down in March after users have already accessed their accounts in February to adjust their trips. Unfortunately, in the next weeks, we expect to continue to see a decrease in overall traffic from this industry.

Travel traffic COVID-19

Event management managing fraud

Event management companies are experiencing two fundamental changes: a decrease of their trusted traffic and a deceleration of their bad traffic. As we know, attacks tend to shadow good users, to hide among them. If good users are moving away from event platforms, bad actors will follow them. The right side of the chart is especially interesting, where the volume of high-risk traffic is higher than the trusted traffic, as the spike on March 23rd can attest to.

Financial institutions remain stable

It is not all doom and gloom in the online space. Fortunately, some industries also remain stable during these uncertain times. Financial institutions are one of those. This stability could be explained by the customer’s need for money to face today’s challenges or access goods, as well as changes to investment choices.

Financial Institution COVID-19 traffic

As mentioned earlier, bad actors follow user behavior. While customers continue to use financial services, bad actors benefit from that virtual crowd to deploy their attacks – see graph above. Bad actors work remotely, unaffected by lockdowns – they already have all the tools they need at home. The attacks targeting our clients are a reminder of how crucial it is to keep a company’s guard up during these times – especially during these times.

Are attacks going up?

This is a common question we get. February and March, sitting between Christmas and Easter, are usually low months for attacks, which explains why there is an absence of large high-risk traffic spikes during this time. Although it is early to tell the effect of this crisis on cyber-attacks, they are likely to increase in the coming weeks with sophisticated techniques and curated credentials or data.

These attacks are going to get more targeted. New phishing scams and malware strategies that target people looking for COVID information, apps, or sanitary goods are arming bad actors with brand-new credentials for upcoming attacks. These scams draw people to download fake apps that track the virus spread or to click on ads to make purchases for health goods that don’t exist. This, paired up with the growth of sophisticated attacks we saw in 2019, can pose a big threat to companies who rely on legacy security tools.

What can companies do in this crisis?

With millions losing their job and understandably reducing the consumption of unnecessary goods and services, customers have never been so valuable to companies. This is a time when building trust with your customer is crucial. If you are a merchant or financial institution, work with your Fraud, Risk, and Customer Experience teams to make sure your good users receive a seamless experience. Be a reference of trust for your customers, offering them your services with reduced friction but without compromising security. Work with your teams to build rules that reduce false declines but block attacks with working credentials. If you need advice on how to do this best, reach out to us, we would love to help you navigate these times.

Read more about Mastercard’s unique perspectives on the intersection of commerce and technology and our commitment to our customers, merchants, consumers and cardholders during the COVID-19 pandemic on the Mastercard Content Exchange.

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