Cybercrimes Rising Amid New Dependence on Technology

Cybercrimes Rising Amid New Dependence on Technology

1 in 3 of those surveyed has suffered cyber attack
A man makes online purchases

With the coronavirus pandemic leading to social distancing, consumers are depending more and more on technology for virtual communication and remote working. Given this trend, cybercrime has become a more important concern — and according to a survey conducted just before the pandemic, it is on the rise.

Specialty insurer Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB), a division of global insurance provider Munich Re, surveyed consumers to see whether there had been an uptick in high-tech criminal activity. The results suggest that cybercrime has become more common, and so has the public’s concerns about it.

Assessing the threat

Nearly one-fourth of respondents to the HSB survey (23%) said they have had their identities stolen — up five percentage points from previous surveys conducted by HSB in 2018 and 2016.

Overall, 1 in 3 (34%) said they had experienced some form of cybercrime, though this was actually slightly below the result from a 2019 survey by ValuePenguin, which found that a full 43% of Americans have been the victim of a cybercrime.

And regardless of the scope of cybercrime’s rise, the HSB poll indicates that most consumers are well aware of the dangers out there. HSB found that 77% of respondents were either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about online identity theft.

The high price of cybercrime

Some forms of cybercrime were particularly costly, as 59% of those respondents who had been victimized spent more than $500 to repair damage from the attack. Likewise, the victims spent an average of 27 hours monitoring their credit and correcting their personal information after the incident.

Cyber attack victims were most likely to be left with viruses or other malware, as 72% of victims in the survey reported that type of damage.

Online consumer fraud was another especially troubling segment of these crimes, with 16% of respondents experiencing this type of attack, nearly doubling from earlier HSB surveys. More than half of the victims of online consumer fraud lost more than $500, and a third lost more than $1,000. When asked where the online consumer fraud took place:

  • 48% said through payment services
  • 21% said through online auctions
  • 20% said through dating websites

Another costly crime was ransomware attacks, in which a cyber criminal locks away and encrypts a victim’s data and then charges the victim a ransom to have their data restored. Among those surveyed by HSB, 11% said they had been the victim of a ransomware attack, and about half of those said they had paid the ransom, typically $2,000 or less.

The use of social media also comes with some risks, the survey showed. Among respondents, 23% said their email or social media accounts had been taken over or otherwise used by someone unauthorized to do so.

Consumers who are concerned about the costs may want to consider cyber insurance as a way to minimize their risk.

At the same time, some of those concerned about cyberattacks are looking to their employers to take on a larger role in helping them keep their data safe. In fact, a different survey by collaboration software provider Nulab found that 76% of respondents believed cybersecurity to be at least somewhat problematic at work.

Methodologies: HSB commissioned market research firm Zogby Analytics to survey 1,515 adults, with the survey conducted in December 2019, with results reported in January 2020. Separately, Nulab surveyed 1,009 full-time employees who used a computer for four or more hours each work day.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.