Over the past year, 65% of people around the world report spending more time online than ever before, likely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we connected to the internet for everything from work and school to entertainment, social connection and even groceries, cybercriminals took advantage and launched coordinated attacks and convincing scams.
NortonLifeLock revealed that in the past year nearly 330 million people across 10 countries were victims of cybercrime and more than 55 million people were victims of identity theft. Cybercrime victims collectively spent nearly 2.7 billion hours trying to resolve their issues.
Losing time to cybercrime
The report, conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 10,000 adults in 10 countries including 1,000 in the United States, also found 25% of Americans detected unauthorized access to an account or device in the past 12 months.
Of the nearly 108 million Americans who experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months (41%), an average of 6.7 hours was spent trying to resolve the issues created, for an estimated over 719 million hours of Americans’ time lost to cybercrime. With the rise in online criminal activity, 47% of Americans feel more vulnerable to cybercrime than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“This past year has been incredibly challenging as we’ve navigated the emotional and physical effects of a global pandemic. What’s more, there is the added concern for the online health and safety of our families as we spend more time online,” says Paige Hanson, chief of cyber safety education, NortonLifeLock. “Cybercriminals have taken advantage of our changing behaviors and increased digital footprint.”
Key drivers of cybercrime insecurity
Americans’ increased time online and inability to tell fact from fiction may be key drivers of their cybercrime insecurity. Seventy-three percent of Americans say they are spending more time online than ever before, with 59% saying they are more worried than ever before about becoming a victim of cybercrime and 56% admitting it’s difficult for them to determine if information they see online is from a credible source. Further, 76% believe remote work has made it much easier for hackers and cybercriminals to take advantage of people.
“Despite vulnerability and confusion this year, we are starting to see a silver lining with consumers fighting back and taking a more active role in protecting their digital lives,” said Hanson.
As a result of cybercrime concerns, 77% of Americans say they have taken more precautions online. Further, 99% of Americans who detected unauthorized access to an account or device in the past 12 months took some action to better their cyber safety, including creating stronger password(s) (66%) or contacting the company the account was hacked from (51%).
33% turned to family member(s) or the internet (31%) for help, while 18% invested more in security software through first-time purchases or doubled down on pre-existing subscriptions.
Victims of cybercrime
- Data privacy a top concern: 88% of Americans are concerned about data privacy and 86% have actively taken steps to hide their online footprint (i.e., to protect their online activities and personal information), including creating stronger passwords (55%) and limiting information shared on social media (40%).
- While precautions have increased, 40% of Americans admit they don’t know how to protect themselves from cybercrime. 46% of Americans would have no idea what to do if their identity was stolen and 77% wish they had more information on what to do if it were.
- Younger generations feel less confident about resolving identity theft: those under 40 are much more likely to say they would have no idea what to do if their identity was stolen (62% vs. 37%) and that they wish they had more information on what to do if their identity were stolen (87% vs. 70%).