A False Sense Of Security? Study Reveals 2/3 Of Americans Vulnerable To Online Identity Theft

A False Sense Of Security? Study Reveals 2/3 Of Americans Vulnerable to Online Identity Theft

Today, you’re never far from a headline about a new phishing scam, or a type of online fraud. Online fraud is responsible for more than $100 billion of private and company losses. But while many of us might pride ourselves on never falling prey to an email from a Nigerian prince asking for help in recovering his multi-million dollar oil fortune, an online test of 2,900 internet users by leading security based review, comparison and news site Security Baron, has revealed how vulnerable we are to online security threats. Overall, respondents scored an unimpressive 39% in the test, which suggests many of us are leaving ourselves wide open to fraud and scams.

Questions included whether internet users use a different password for each account they access with a login, or whether they check for a little padlock icon at the top of their browsers before inputting credit card or bank details when purchasing something; if there isn’t one, it could mean those details will be compromised.

Security Baron also surveyed Americans about their general online security and found some other interesting results; for example, worryingly over 1 in 10 internet users (14%) would NOT report if they fell prey to an online scam, perhaps out of embarrassment. Overall, the majority of those surveyed would rate their efforts to protect themselves online from privacy attacks as ‘adequate’ (26%). A quarter said their efforts were very ‘strong’, 22% said ‘strong’, 21% rated their efforts as ‘poor’, and 5% said ‘very poor’.

Respondents were also asked which type of data they would be most concerned about being leaked online. The results were as follows:

  1. Personal data (45%). This type of data includes things like your date of birth, phone number or social security number.
  2. Financial data (33%). This includes credit card numbers, bank account details, expiry dates etc.
  3. IT Security data (9%), such as app data or log in details.
  4. Legal data (9%) – which would be court hearings or any criminal records.
  5. Health data (4%), such as prescription drug information or medical records.

Security Baron put together some tips on how you can improve your online security:

Two-Factor Authentication. Increase cybersecurity by turning on two-factor authentication. Receiving push notifications on your phone and using biometrics like fingerprints are simple ways to secure your identity.

Password Manager. Effective way to ensure each of your passwords are unique and difficult to hack. Worried about remembering all these passwords? Just add each one to your password vault which will allow you to sign into all contacts and sync passwords across devices.

VPN (virtual private network). A VPN is good for sensitive data or to make use of a server from a different country. Instead of being connected directly to the Internet, all data will travel through encrypted tunnels to private servers.

Incognito Mode. This only hides internet activity from someone using your device – not from the outside – so companies, employers and governments will be able to track you via service provider, network and websites you visit.

Social Media. If you’re concerned about your privacy, start by setting your social media accounts – like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – to private.

Organizational Cybersecurity. In business having a few people handle one account is better than having multiple personal accounts. If an individual is hacked, there will be no way for other people to step in and fix the problem. If an employee leaves, passwords should be changed immediately to avoid the potential risk of leaking business information. It’s also important to educate employees on potential security threats like phishing, ransomware and pharming.

Software Updates. Every laptop and computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software installed. Ensure these are updated regularly as viruses are constantly evolving.

Cloud Storage. If you have cloud storage, you’re at an increased risk of being hacked as a majority of cloud websites contain vulnerabilities. Back up your data to local storage, such as a hard drive, and make sure to carefully monitor the data you store in the cloud.

Online Banking Security. Consistently check your bank statements to ensure every expense is accounted for. Also make sure you can see a padlock symbol on the webpage before making any online purchases. Lastly, it may seem self-explanatory but if your browser is warning you that a website is not secure, it’s probably a good idea to terminate your purchase.

‘It’s clear we all need to be much more vigilant,’ says Gabe Turner at Security Baron. ‘Scammers and fraudsters are getting more and more convincing all the time, making it increasingly hard to tell what’s real from what’s fake. But if you do your research and due diligence, you should be able to keep yourself safe.’

To find you how strong your own online security is, you can take Security Baron’s test. It will provide you with an overall score and suggest how you can improve your online security.