Cybercrime awareness heightened, yet people still engage in risky online behaviors

76% of Americans recognize that data breaches are serious, showing a high awareness that may be driven by news of major consumer, enterprise, and infrastructure breaches over the past year alone, according to a survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by Aura and The Harris Poll.

risky online behaviors

In fact, 87% of 10 Americans see cyber warfare as a threat to the safety and well-being of the next generation — more so than global warming (77%) and COVID-19 or another pandemic (81%).

“This data shows that Americans appropriately believe there is a gap in their online protection today and are uncertain about their digital futures as we increasingly live our lives on devices,” said Hari Ravichandran, CEO at Aura.

“Even so, their behaviors online are risky at best and are putting them at risk of cybercrime. Aura hopes to help solve this problem for consumers by providing resources, products and guidance on how to keep your identity, finances and devices safe from online threats.”

Uncertainty about the future of cybercrime over the next 10 years

Most U.S. adults worry a lot about data breaches (60%) and the safety of their personal information online (52%) — but a worrying 34% say they have stopped paying attention to data breaches because they happen so often.

Fear and concern about cybercrime also differs by generation, with 95% of those 65+ seeing cybercrime as a threat to the next generation vs. 82% of 18-34 year olds.

Further, Americans are torn on whether things will improve by 2030:

  • 45% expect to feel more secure online in 2030 compared to today, either due to fewer cybercriminals (11%) or more products/solutions to combat them (34%)
  • However, many people believe they will feel about the same (26%) or even less secure (22%) in 2030 than they feel online today

Risky online behaviors contributing to increasing digital crime

Although awareness of cybercrime has clearly heightened, there’s a correlation between adults who are engaging in risky online behaviors and those who have experienced digital crime.

According to the FTC, total fraud losses cost Americans $3.3B in 2020, an increase of 83% YoY. This could be, in part, due to sustained online behaviors of which cybercriminals are taking advantage.

The survey found that about 1 in 2 Americans who have experienced digital crime have opened emails from unknown senders (51%) and have downloaded software/files from unknown origins (50%).

There are even higher instances of risky online behaviors like using the same passwords across multiple accounts; 74% of those who have experienced digital crime say they have done that. These behaviors open consumers up to potentially damaging occurrences like ransomware, malware, data theft and other forms of digital crime.

People know they need more online protection, but don’t trust institutions

79% of U.S. adults acknowledge that they may not be doing enough to protect their personal information online, but varied obstacles appear to stand in their way. Among those who feel they should do more, the top barriers preventing them from doing so include these steps being too time-consuming (36%) and not having the knowledge of what to do (33%).

Aura also found a low level of trust in institutions to hold and protect personal information, including healthcare providers (52%), financial institutions (45%), their employer/company or school (41%), streaming services (30%), the government (29%) and retailers/online shopping sites (25%).

80% of adults believe the U.S. government has an obligation to protect consumers’ personal information. Even more believe the protection of personal data and information should be a right that everyone is given for free (84%) and that data protection should be provided, for free, by schools and employers (83%).

“It’s clear that Americans want — and need — easier, more accessible ways to protect themselves online, eliminate risky behaviors without disruption to their lives and reduce the clear danger to themselves and their families,” said Ravichandran.

“Aura strongly believes there should be protections for consumers on all levels – from companies like Aura to state, local and federal governments. We’re calling on the current administration to ensure cybersecurity protections for individual consumers –not just enterprise and institutional protections– are core to the policies in review on the Hill.”

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