About 330 million people hit by cybercrime in 10 countries alone, report says

If the report's estimate for just those countries over the past year is accurate, there may be billions of victims worldwide

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Nearly 330 million people across 10 countries were victims of cybercrime and more than 55 million people were victims of identity theft in the last 12 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research released this week. 

Furthermore, cybercrime victims collectively spent nearly 2.7 billion hours trying to resolve their issues, said US-based consumer cyber safety company NortonLifeLock in an annual report. It noted that attacks and scams have surged as cybercriminals try to take advantage of the increased digital presence, with the company's survey showing 65% of respondents spending more time online than ever before. 

The findings were released in the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, which is based on a survey conducted online in February among over 10,000 adults in 10 countries - Australia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. - with about 1,000 respondents in each country, according to the company. 

Among the respondents in the U S, 25% 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, nearly half of Americans (47%) feel more vulnerable to cybercrime than they did before the pandemic began, NortonLifeLock said.

"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.”

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, according to the company.

"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, almost all Americans who detected unauthorized access to an account or device in the past 12 months (99%) took some action to better their cyber safety, including creating stronger password(s) (66%) or contacting the company the account was hacked from (51%). Many turned to family member(s) (33%) or the internet (31%) for help, while others invested more in security software through first-time purchases or doubled down on pre-existing subscriptions (18%), NortonLifeLock said.

According to the company, additional U.S. findings include:

Data privacy a top concern: 88% of Americans are concerned about data privacy and more than 8 in 10 (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, 2 in 5 Americans (40%) admit they don’t know how to protect themselves from cybercrime. Nearly half of Americans (46%) 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%).