Canadian Underwriter

Half of surveyed consumers encountered malware, a third of those had financial loss: Kaspersky Lab

September 17, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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A third of respondents to a global Kaspersky Lab survey who suffered a malware infection also experienced a financial loss, averaging US$160.

“Victims spent money on professional repairs, software to eliminate the effects of an infection, and some even had to buy a replacement device. When financial losses were incurred, the average cost of an attack amounted to $160,” notes Kaspersky Lab, which released Consumer Security Risks Survey – From Scared to Aware: Digital Lives in 2015 earlier this week.

Conducted by Kaspersky Lab with B2B International, the online survey involved 12,355 people 16 and older, equally split between men and women, from 26 countries. Data was weighted to be globally representative and consistent.

Half of consumers experienced malware incident in last year

“The growing use of mobile and portable Internet-enabled devices, as well as the spread of next-generation networks, makes it ever easier for consumers to go online anytime and anywhere; and they are embracing the opportunity to do so,” the report states. “Consumers’ primary online activities include emailing, online shopping, reading the news, using social media, banking and working.”

The survey shows 45% of those polled encountered at least one malware incident during the last year and 44% say they know of others who have been affected. Specifically, in 35% of cases of those reporting a malware incident, the aftermath was slower computer performance, changes to a browser or the operating system settings without the user’s permission in 17% of cases, data locking in 11% of cases, deleted personal data in 10% of cases, fraudulent social media posts in 9% of cases and webcam hacking in 6% of cases.

When looking at the cause of the malware encounter and subsequent infection, the respondents report the following:

  • 12% say they believe their devices were infected after visiting a suspicious website;
  • 8% cite use of someone else’s USB flash drive, another infected device or installing a malicious app disguised as a legitimate program;
  • 7% report their devices were infected after opening an email attachment; and
  • 13% note they could not explain how malware ended up on their devices (different device types are vulnerable to different malware attacks, with the survey showing 52% of laptop and 46% of desktop users unable to determine how they were infected).

The report further notes that 25% of those surveyed has experienced account hacking and 32% say they know of other others who have been affected. In addition, 48% of respondents have experienced a financial threat, and 42% know of friends, colleagues or family members who have been affected. [Click on image below to enlarge]

Malware incident-related costs

“The costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence,” Elena Kharchenko, Kaspersky Lab’s head of consumer product management, says in the company statement. Kharchenko recommends not inserting unverified USB sticks in a device, using only official app stores, keeping the operating system and applications up to date and scanning files with a security solution before opening them. “The ability to foresee potential problems and take precautions is the key to staying safe,” she emphasizes.

“Other actions to protect devices and activity on devices include enforcing strong privacy settings on social media accounts and browsers (39%); turning off location-tracking (34%) and storing sensitive data on a device that is not Internet-connected (28%),” the report adds.

“The study found that concerns about the security of some online communication channels do not prevent consumers from using them,” it states. “For example, a quarter uses messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, even though 50% regards them as insecure.”

In addition, the report points out that the boundaries between work and personal device use are blurring. As a result, there are a number of potential security risks associated with this.

In all, 13% of respondents use a personal laptop for work, and 6% use a work-provided one for personal activiities, the report states. Similarly, 7% use their own Android smartphone and 4% their own iPhone for work. [Click image below to enlarge]

Work and personal life blurring on devices

“Consumers who use their connected devices for work use them more for everything. This does not just increase their own exposure to risk, but often that of their employer, too,” the report cautions. For example, 41% of respondents with smartphones that are used for or provided by work use their device for online shopping, and 27% use the device for online payments.

Other main survey findings include the following:

  • 67% of respondents use several devices to go online, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops;
  • 13% of consumers use public Wi-Fi to log onto websites and accounts (just 26% say they limit their activities to things that are safer);
  • 88% store private or personal information on digital devices, while 48% store password or account login details (about half of respondents say the most worrying information cyber criminals could get hold of are account passwords, 47%, and financial assets, 46%, followed by details of where they live, 34%, and private pictures and videos, 24%);
  • the estimated median value of replacing all digital assets stored on devices is US$682;
  • just 36% have implemented strong privacy settings and 19% do not take any precautions at all;
  • 14% have lost a device or had one stolen (for 77% of respondents, the loss or theft of a device turned out to have far-reaching consequences, including that 27% found their online accounts had been hacked and 25% discovered personal or secret information had been leaked); and

15% of data lost was never recovered.