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Cyber Trumps Physical Crime in Consumer Fears

Consumers are more worried about cybercrime than physical world crime, new research has revealed. 

A report from Sophos shows that 63% worry about financial loss due to a computer breach, while 61% are worried about hackers taking over their computer to send spam and malware campaigns to their contacts. Another 58% are worried about hackers rendering their computer useless.

By contrast, 46% worry about their car being stolen or broken into or about physical assault, 52% worry about their home being robbed, and 56% of those surveyed worry about terrorism.

“People understand how to protect their home or car—they feel they’ve got the physical world covered. Whereas cybercriminals are invisible and the virtual crime world is unpredictable and complicated, especially when it comes to cyber threats like phishing and ransomware,” said John Shaw, vice president, Enduser Security Group, Sophos. “Attacks today usually start from legitimate websites that have been hacked—unbeknownst to the people visiting them—or from phishing—sending fake emails designed to look real—to lure consumers into opening dodgy documents or clicking malicious URLs. Once unwitting users have clicked, ransomware executes in the background and then locks and holds hostage your personal files, photos and other valuable data until you pay the criminals money.”

Despite concern for cybercrime in general among those consumers surveyed, awareness of phishing and ransomware remains relatively low. Nearly half, 47%, are not familiar with phishing or perceive it as a low threat, which is a concern considering phishing is the number one attack method used to gain access to personal information.

More than 30% of those surveyed rated themselves as being extremely unprotected, unsure of being protected or completely unaware of phishing attacks. And 31% of those surveyed said they are not familiar with ransomware or perceive it as a low threat.

“Those within cybersecurity circles know ransomware has become a lucrative billion dollar business for an army of cyber-criminals who use toolkits developed by ‘super hackers,’” said Shaw. “These toolkits put advanced exploit techniques at the fingertips of any criminally-minded person who is even vaguely computer literate to easily carry out cyberattacks. It’s time consumers learn about the tricks and trade of cyber-criminals and how their threats are constantly evolving.”

Not surprisingly, traditional malware and spyware—cyber-threats that have been with us for a long time—are perceived as the largest threats. A full 59% of all surveyed perceive malware as an extremely large threat, and 54% perceive spyware as an extremely large threat.

“Consumers are the most vulnerable to ransomware, malware and spyware, because unlike at work, they don’t have an IT department looking over their shoulder and handling cyber security as part of a full time job,” said Shaw. “In many households, one person provides de facto IT support in the home, as well as for family and friends outside of the home, but that person doesn’t always feel confident that they know what they should be doing or have the time to do it.”

Also, 55% of all surveyed by Sophos said they advise someone else (spouse, kids, friend, parents, extended family, grandchildren and other) on keeping their computer protected from malware and hackers. Of these, 14% are not confident that they’ve properly backed up and could recover data after a security breach from a computer they look after for someone else. About a fifth (18%) sat on the fence, neither unsure nor confident, leaving 32% of those who rely on someone else to handle their cyber security potentially vulnerable to a data breach.

“Backing up computers and installing advanced protection for home PCs and Macs are things we should all be doing, like adding a house or car alarm to the locks on your doors. We should also be much less trusting online. Be vigilant about emails—if you are not absolutely sure who sent it and why, check with them first, and if you’re skeptical, just hit delete,” said Shaw. “These are some top tips consumers and designated home IT providers should use as best practices to stay safe online.”

Additionally, 11% are not confident that the computer they monitor for someone else is protected from hackers and viruses, and 14% were neither unsure nor confident. This means 25% of home computers that are managed by someone else, as surveyed, are vulnerable to cybercrime, including phishing and ransomware.

“At home, anyone who is vaguely technically literate is often expected to protect multiple PCs and Macs for their extended family and friends,” said Shaw. 

Photo © g-stockstudio

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