Complacency, poor digital security habits, and a cavalier attitude towards securing newly bought Internet-enabled devices are putting Singapore consumers at a greater risk online, according to a study released by Symantec today.
The most common cybercrime here, according to the security firm, was the theft of account passwords, affecting 20 per cent of all respondents. Hacked e-mail accounts was second at 19 per cent while credit card fraud, at 14 per cent, came third.
The report also notes a complacent attitude towards cyber security. Forty-one per cent of consumers interviewed has at least one unprotected device at home, leaving them open to intrusion.
Among them, almost one in three said they do so because they are not doing anything “risky” online.
While more people now understand that the dangers of cybercrime are no different from risks in the real world, most remain unmotivated in taking precautions to stay safe, according to this year’s Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report.
The report is based on an online survey of 20,907 users aged 18 and above across 21 markets. It was commissioned by Symantec and produced by research firm Edelman Intelligence.
The Singapore sample reflects input from 1,013 users aged 18 and above between September 14 and October 4 this year, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent.
The findings come at a time when connected home devices such as lightbulbs, televisions and security cameras are inadvertently opening up new opportunities for hackers to exploit. With settings often left on default, they become attractive targets to cyber attackers.
Symantec has a few practical tips for protecting one’s digital presence:
Avoid password promiscuity: Use strong, unique passwords with a combination of 10 upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. Change them every three months and do not use the same for multiple accounts. Use a password manager if it is difficult to remember all of them.
Do not go on phishing expeditions: Be careful when opening messages and attachments from unsolicited senders and avoid clicking on random links. The message may be from cyber criminals who have compromised your friend or family member’s e-mail or social media account.
Do not keep a (dis)connected home: Change the default password when installing a new connected device, like a router or smart thermostat. Use strong passwords and encryption (WPA2, for instance) so hackers cannot crack them. If you do not need the Internet feature on a device, disable it entirely or prevent remote access to them.
Be in control when online: Use security software to protect every single device you own against the latest threats.
Know the ins and outs of public Wi-Fi networks: Accessing personal information on unprotected Wi-Fi networks means they can be easily “sniffed” and read by cyber criminals. Avoid paying for things online or logging on to accounts when using these networks.
The report also had some other interesting findings:
(1) Consumers recognise online risks are real
There is a growing awareness of the dangers of cyberspace, vis-a-vis the real world.
• Over half of those surveyed (65 per cent) said over the past five years, it has become harder to stay safe online
• 64 per cent of respondents believe it is riskier to enter financial information online over a public Wi-Fi connection than reading credit card details aloud in a public place (36 per cent)
• More consumers believe it is riskier to open attachments from unknown senders (56 per cent) than to open their door for a stranger (44 per cent)
(2) Bad online and offline habits are hard to break
Consumers remain complacent when it comes to securing personal information while online.
• People who experienced cyber crime in the past year are as likely to be concerned about their home security as non-victims (71 versus 68 per cent). However, victims of cyber crime still remain less likely to password protect their home Wi-Fi networks than non-victims (24 per cent vs 11 per cent)
• 36 per cent of millennials share their passwords, compromising their online safety. This could suggest why three in 10 millennials have experienced cyber crime in the past year
• One in four (26 per cent) are unable to identify a phishing email designed to steal passwords and other personal information
• 92 per cent of Singapore consumers use public Wi-Fi connections, but only 44 per cent are able to tell if the connection is secured
• Only 27 per cent of consumers surveyed connect to a Wi-Fi network using a virtual private ntwork regularly to protect themselves against data theft
(3) Overconfidence in connected devices leaves users vulnerable
Poor consumer security habits and vulnerabilities in connected devices are letting hackers into the consumers’ homes.
• 42 per cent of those surveyed used the default passwords when setting up Wi-Fi and have not changed them
• Nearly half of the consumers surveyed do not believe there are enough connected devices to make them a worthwhile target for hackers, when the fact is the latter are on their way of learning how accessing these devices can be lucrative
• Six in 10 consumers believe connected home devices are designed with security in mind. Symantec researchers have, however, identified security vulnerabilities in 50 different devices from smart thermostats to smart hubs that make them easy targets for attacks.