Survey: Consumers have one-in-four chance of becoming cybercrime victim

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Survey: Consumers have one-in-four chance of becoming cybercrime victim

End-users have a 25-percent chance of becoming a cybercrime victim, according to Consumer Reports' "State of the Net" survey for 2007.

The consumer advocacy publication surveyed 2,030 online households this spring, finding that the odds of becoming a cybercrime victim are slightly worse than they were in 2006.

The survey, set to appear in the periodical’s September issue, found that about eight percent of respondents said they had submitted personal or financial information to a phishing scam — statistics consistent with 2006.

"In the past two years, we estimate, a million consumers have lost billions of dollars to such scams," the organisation said in a preview.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 38 percent said they were affected by a computer virus in the past two years, while 34 percent said their computers were infected with spyware in the past six months.

About 1.8 million households replaced their PCs during the past two years due to virus or spyware infections — including 850,000 in the past six months — according to the survey.

The study also found home-users lacking in sufficient anti-virus protection. Seventeen percent of respondents had no anti-malware software installed, and 33 percent didn’t use anti-spyware software. An estimated 3.7 million home users with broadband have no firewall installed, according to Consumer Reports.

The lack of protection extends to wireless users, according to the survey, which found that half of home users with a wireless router didn’t use basic precautions such as encryption. Sixty-three percent logged on to password-protected accounts at wireless hotspots, according to the survey.

Dean Turner, director of the global intelligence network at Symantec, told SCMagazine.com that consumer-based surveys have a valuable role in educating home users, but to a different degree than in-depth malware reports.

"I think [surveys] are extremely valuable, because a lot of the time that message [of in-depth reports] gets lost or is targeted to businesses, and I think consumers have a hard time understanding that kind of talk," he said.

"I think what it does is to highlight what we are seeing, that a lot of cybercrime is focused around the theft of information and that consumers are a really viable target."
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