Consumers have no idea what ransomware is

A new study reveals almost half (43%) of connected consumers today do not know what ransomware is, despite the recent aggressive spread of this type of cyber threat. In addition, a similar amount (44%) confessed that they did not know what data or information could be stolen in a ransomware attack.

ransomware awareness

For the study, Kaspersky Lab surveyed over 4,000 U.S. and 1,000 Canadian consumers aged 16 and older. The results showed that only a small number (16%) of consumers mentioned ransomware as a cyber threat they were worried about, compared to their concern of viruses, spyware and Trojans. Moreover, it’s not a clear concern for even those of a tech-savvy generation: only 13 percent of Millennials said they were worried about ransomware in general.

In addition to a lack of ransomware awareness, many consumers do not know what cybercriminals can take once they have control over a computer, smartphone or tablet. Not knowing that cybercriminals can take personal documents, photos, videos, audio files and lock them out of a person’s reach, can leave people vulnerable.

Since consumers store emotionally and financially valuable content on their digital devices, 26 percent of Americans and 24 percent of Canadians said they would be willing to give up social media permanently in order to guarantee the future protection of their personal digital files.

Also, many respondents would not know what to do if a ransom attack occurred. The survey found that 15 percent of Americans and 17 percent of Canadians think unplugging the computer or turning off the mobile device could stop it, with a small amount even believing negotiating with the attacker is the best way to stop the attack.

The findings also indicated that the percentage of those surveyed who would not know what steps to take in a ransomware attack grew with increasing age, from 37 percent of those aged 16-34 to 54 percent of those aged 55+.

“Right now, ransomware is an epidemic. Although it has been around for more than a decade, we have seen a recent explosion of new ransomware families that is cause for serious concern,” said Ryan Naraine, head of the Global Research and Analysis team in the USA, Kaspersky Lab. “With this epidemic, the need for increased consumer awareness about ransomware is essential. Consumers today must not only learn about ransomware, but also use solutions to protect themselves against it, including installing internet security, making sure all devices are updated with available software patches, routinely backing up all important digital assets and implementing better user habits.”