A new study from Internet security giant Symantec shows cybercrime affects everyone everywhere, and US Internet users are particularly vulnerable. Almost three-quarters of US Internet users are cybercrime victims, and the US ranks third on the list of countries attacked the most. When looked at globally, the number is still eye-opening, affecting about two-thirds of Internet users. Cybercrime includes computer viruses, online credit card fraud, and identity theft.
The 2011 Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact examined victims’ emotional aftermath to understand user behavior. The only survey asked 7,066 adults aged 18 and over in 14 different countries how they felt about cybercrime. Researchers were interested in seeing what users are doing to protect themselves before and after the attack. The aftermath is particularly of interest to see how users adjust their behavior to prevent a recurrence.
A majority of cybervictims, at 58 percent, reported feeling angry after being attacked. Other strong feelings include being annoyed and cheated. Like many other crimes, these victims tend to blame themselves for being attacked. An overwhelming majority of them feel helpless and don’t expect the criminals to get caught. This often meant they didn’t report the crime, warn friends and family, or do anything about it. Users reported the time it took to resolve the issue as the biggest hassle, followed by dealing with feelings of helplessness, embarrassment, and stress. According to the report, it takes an average of 28 days to resolve the crime.
At least half of the users reported being a victim, which included viruses and malware, responding to online scams and phishing messages, getting their social networking profile hacked, harassed by sexual predators, identity theft, and credit card fraud. Even so, only 44 percent reported the crime to the police, and usually only when there was an actual financial loss or threat of physical harm.
According to the study, despite the fact that only nine percent of the users feel very safe online, only 55 percent of the users considered cybercrime a potential threat. They are also distressingly honest about their personal information, financial status, and contact details. Users don’t realize their behavior is opening themselves up to security threats, such as downloading music and movies or secretly viewing someone else’s emails. Scarily, only half the respondents said they would change their behavior if they were ever a victim.
Users are trying to be a little bit more careful, regularly reviewing credit card statements and using different passwords for sites, and using security software. They just need to be more proactive about safety, since the next attack may just be a click away.