The next time you surf the Internet, consider this: You might be just one click away from becoming the next cybercrime victim. A new study released today from security software maker Norton reveals the staggering prevalence of cybercrime: Two-thirds (65 percent) of Internet users globally, and almost three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. Web surfers have fallen victim to cybercrimes, including computer viruses, online credit card fraud and identity theft. As the most victimized nations, America ranks third, after China (83 percent) and Brazil and India (tie 76 percent).
The Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact shines a light on the personal toll cybercrime takes. The first study to examine the emotional impact of cybercrime, it shows that victims’ strongest reactions are feeling angry (58 percent), annoyed (51 percent) and cheated (40 percent), and in many cases, they blame themselves for being attacked. Only 3 percent don’t think it will happen to them, and nearly 80 percent do not expect cybercriminals to be brought to justice— resulting in an ironic reluctance to take action and a sense of helplessness.
“We accept cybercrime because of a ‘learned helplessness’,” said Joseph LaBrie, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University. “It’s like getting ripped off at a garage – if you don’t know enough about cars, you don’t argue with the mechanic. People just accept a situation, even if it feels bad.”
Despite the emotional burden, the universal threat, and incidents of cybercrime, people still aren’t changing their behaviors - with only half (51 percent) of adults saying they would change their behavior if they became a victim. Even scarier, fewer than half (44 percent) reported the crime to the police.
Cybercrime victim Todd Vinson of Chicago explained, “I was emotionally and financially unprepared because I never thought I would be a victim of such a crime. I felt violated, as if someone had actually come inside my home to gather this information, and as if my entire family was exposed to this criminal act. Now I can't help but wonder if other information has been illegally acquired and just sitting in the wrong people’s hands, waiting for an opportunity to be used.”
Solving cybercrime can be highly frustrating: According to the report, it takes an average of 28 days to resolve a cybercrime, and the average cost to resolve that crime is $334. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said the biggest hassle they faced when dealing with cybercrime was the time it took to solve.
But despite the hassle, reporting a cybercrime is critical. “We all pay for cybercrime, either directly or through pass-along costs from our financial institutions,” said Adam Palmer, Norton lead cyber security advisor. “Cybercriminals purposely steal small amounts to remain undetected, but all of these add up. If you fail to report a loss, you may actually be helping the criminal stay under the radar.”
The “human impact” aspect of the report delves further into the little crimes or white lies consumers perpetrate against friends, family, loved ones and businesses. Nearly half of respondents think it’s legal to download a single music track, album or movie without paying. Twenty-four percent believe it’s legal or perfectly okay to secretly view someone else’s e-mails or browser history. Some of these behaviors, such as downloading files, open people up to additional security threats.
But there are simple steps people can take to protect themselves, according to the report. “People resist protecting themselves and their computers because they think it’s too complicated,” said Anne Collier, co-director of ConnectSafely.org and editor of NetFamilyNews.org, who collaborated with Norton on the study. “But everyone can take simple steps, such as having up-to-date, comprehensive security software in place. In the case of online crime, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.”
The best defense against cybercrime, and the best way to protect yourself, is to surf the Internet with up-to-date, comprehensive security software such as Norton Internet Security 2011, which was launched today.
For more tips, and insights from this groundbreaking study, or to better understand the alarming extent of cybercrime, the feelings of powerlessness and lack of justice felt by its victims, please view the full Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact here.