The internet allows us to communicate with one another from across the globe, find the answer to pretty much any question in a matter of seconds, order food, get directions, send pictures, and so much more.
But just like anything, with the internet, the good comes with the bad. And the "bad" in this case is cybercrime. Being so digitally connected exposes us to significant risk, especially if we don't take steps to stay safe.
What is Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is defined as any crime that is committed with the use of a computer. This could mean an email scam in which a "Nigerian prince" asks you to wire him some money so that he can process his visa to move to the United States, but it could also be a direct attack against a company's data to try and steal account information and credit card numbers.
Cybercrime can also be the sale of illegal materials over the internet, such as drugs or child pornography, as well as abuse, such as when pedophiles try to talk to kids, or when people make fun of each other and cause one another harm, also known as cyberbullying.
An Underappreciated Threat
However, despite the very real threat cybercrime poses, not enough people take it seriously. It's quite common to find people using devices that aren't locked, or using exceptionally common passwords to secure their accounts or opening suspicious mail that can give cybercriminals far too much access to their personal information.
In case you're one of these people who is not taking cybercrime seriously enough, here are 19 alarming statistics that will wake you up to the severity of this threat:
1. There is a cyber-attack once every 39 seconds
According to a study from the University of Maryland, a typical computer is attacked in one way or another every 39 seconds. This could come in the form of a direct hacking attempt, a phishing attempt, or some other version of spam meant to infect your computer with harmful software, known as malware.
To do this study, researchers lowered the defenses on a series of computers and monitored how often they were attacked. Thankfully, if you're using an anti-virus program and some common sense, you should be able to avoid most of these attacks and stay safe. But still, it's unnerving to know just how many attacks are happening at any given moment.
2. 78 percent of the organizations in the US have experienced a cyber attack in the past year
Although hackers will attack pretty much anyone, they often try to focus on companies and other organizations that have people's financial or personal information on file. Somewhat surprisingly, though, hackers are increasingly going after medium- and small-sized companies because large companies, although in possession of more data, use their considerable resources to put up stronger defenses against cybercriminals. Smaller companies can't do this and are therefore potentially better targets.
3. 23 percent of Americans have either had their credit card or financial information stolen by hackers, or they know someone who has
This is one of those things you don't think can happen to you until it does. It will be totally unexpected. One day you'll look into your bank account and see a few transactions for things you clearly didn't do.
In most cases, when this happens, you can make a claim with your bank or credit card company and get the money back, but this won't save you from the hassle of having to cancel your card, wait for a new one, and then update all your accounts. Plus, you may never get the peace of mind back that you lose when someone gets hold of your data.
4. 30 percent of all US consumers were affected by data breaches in 2018
We will give out our personal information to pretty much anyone, especially if they agree to ship us some new clothes or a fancy new gadget. In general, this isn't a bad thing. Companies who take credit card information or other sensitive data usually take great pride in their efforts to keep it safe, but no one can be truly immune from cybercriminals. This translates to about a one in three chance of being affected by a data breach at a company you do business with.
5. There have been more than 1,000 data breaches exposing 147 million records just in the first nine months of 2019
That's just a little more than 100 data breaches a day. If this doesn't make it hit home that cybercriminals are a constant danger, nothing will. Luckily, our defenses make it so that most, but not all, of these exposed records are not overly sensitive. However, this stat should serve as a reminder as to why it's so important to put up the strongest defense possible.
6. The number of data breaches is growing each year
There's no reason to think this threat will go away if we just "wait it out." As more and more of the world goes online, there is more valuable information than ever, meaning cybercriminals have considerable incentive to try and hack into a company's system and steal your personal data along with that of hundreds if not thousands of others.
7. Mobile malware variation has increased by 54 percent
This is a stat that reminds us how hackers and other cybercriminals are constantly improving the techniques they use to attack us and steal our information. Malware, which is a blanket term for the many different types of infected software hackers try to get you to install by phishing you, is getting more complex, especially for mobile devices.
Once considered safe from hackers, our dependence on our smartphones has hackers creating lots of new software designed to get to our data. And this new malware is increasingly varied, meaning it's difficult to identify and to block, which just means we need to be constantly vigilant.
As you can see, the threat posed by cybercrime is immense. This should be enough to convince you to take cybercrime seriously and put up the necessary defenses, but in case it's not, consider these stats about the cost of cybercrime to our lives:
This cost comes from things such as: paying back funds lost to fraud, compensating those who have had their identity stolen, giving or losing money to false fronts, paying ransoms to have viruses removed, and much more.
This is not something that happens every once in a while and that doesn't cause much harm. Instead, as mentioned above, it's a constant threat that can have severe consequences, such as costing the US economy close to $100 billion a year.
9. The cost of cybercrime to the global economy is around $445 billion per year
It's important to remember this is not just a problem in the United States. Cybercrime is a huge problem all over the world, with some countries experiencing even more problems than others. A good example is Indonesia where you have a 76 percent chance of being affected by a cyberattack. All of these attacks come with a price tag, and in total, they cost the global economy close to half a trillion dollars a year.
10. We lose $1.48 billion to phishing
Phishing is the tactic scammers use of trying to get you to be the one to let them into whatever system they are trying to hack or to outright steal from you. They usually use email, but they can also call or text you, and they are relying on you to click the link in the email that will trigger a download onto your computer.
Other emails might be made to look like they're from someone you know, or a complete stranger (such as a Nigerian prince), asking for money to help them out of a sticky situation. Always verify these before sending anyone anything, especially money or your credit card information.
It seems silly thinking about it like this that people would fall for this. But we lose 1.48 billion a year to phishing attacks, suggesting many email users aren't aware of the risks and/or that hackers are always finding new ways to trick us.
11. It costs a business $1.6 million to deal with the impacts of a phishing attack
If you own a business or work for one that doesn't have a strong defense constructed against cybercrime, this stat should be a call to action. Getting hit by a hacker is not fun. If they steal your customer's data, you will have to pay to find out the problem, fix it and update your system so it doesn't happen again, compensate those involved, and also work to rebuild your image and your relationship with customers. All of this takes time and money. About $1.6 million on average.
12. 60 percent of small companies that suffer a cyber attack are out of business
If you own a business and think spending $1.6 million to clean up after a cyberattack would ruin you, you're not alone. Almost two-thirds of the companies that fall victim to a hack or data breach wind up having to close down. This is likely due to a combination of not being able to manage the expense and also the loss of trust that comes when you lose sensitive customer data.
13. Americans have lost more than $1 billion to online dating scams over the past three years
Somewhat surprisingly, one of the biggest instances of cybercrime in the United States is online dating scams. In these instances, cybercriminals make fake accounts and then seek out people on various platforms. They flatter and court them, and then at some point, they usually ask them for some money to help them with a problem. Head over heels, they agree, but then after they send the money and ask to meet, they never hear from the person again.
Americans lose more than a billion dollars a year to these types of scams.
Clearly, cybercrime is both prevalent and damaging. But what causes it? Are hackers really that good at finding their way into these well-defended systems? In some cases, yes. But in most cases, they get a hold of information or other valuable data because we let them in!
Here are some stats to show you how cybercrime happens:
14. Your email and your phone are the most common
places for you to get hacked
Phishing attempts sent to your email and also to your phone via text message are the most common way for you to get hacked. It might be a message that looks like it's coming from your bank or your lawyer, but sometimes all you need to do is click on it and your system has been compromised. Always double check sender information, and when in doubt, don't click.
15. 39 percent of all global data breaches caused by malware were ransomware
Another one of the reasons why cybercrime has such a massive impact on our economy is because of the use of ransomware. This is a type of malware that essentially takes your system hostage, threatening to delete or expose your data if you do not pay a fee to the one who has "kidnapped" your information.
It's a no-win situation because if you pay you're giving up not only money by your bank information, and you still might not get your data back. If you don't pay, you're going to get punished. Most companies don't pay ransoms, which is why so many of the data breaches that occur are caused by this type of malware.
16. Spam and phishing are responsible for 66 percent of all the ransomware that gets stolen
This is a bit of a recurring theme. Phishing is the primary means hackers use to get you to download ransomware onto your computer. They also might use pop-up ads as another way to get you to click on something and download their program. They're hoping you click on it while using a computer with access to a larger network of data, but if not, they'll just take yours and try elsewhere.
17. 56 percent of cybercrime committed against companies is brought on by either current or former employees
For business owners, you should only have to hear this stat once to make training your staff to defend against cybercrime a priority. This is because this stat doesn't mean you all have employees out there who want to get you and steal your money. Instead, they simply don't know how to spot a phishing attempt, or what to do if they suspect they've been targeted, and so when it happens, they make a mistake that costs the company big time. Train first and you'll be thankful later.
There are many other types of cybercrime that do not involve data breaches, hacks, and identity information. Some of these other crimes don't even deal with money. Instead, they are examples of what sick individuals can do with an internet connection.
Children are particularly susceptible because they lack awareness of how to spot a threat and what to do when once occurs. Here are two sobering stats about the danger children are in and why it's important to do everything we can to keep them safe.
18. One in five teenagers who use the internet have received an unwanted sexual solicitation
This stat is pretty terrifying when you think about it. Kids are online on a near-constant basis, mainly on social media and other websites that allow people to communicate with one another. An innocent person expressing an interest in the same things as them is often welcomed, but then this friendliness can disappear when one side asks to meet or for photos, putting your child in a compromising position.
Speak to your kids about talking online with people they don't know to get them to develop good online street smarts and stay safe while browsing the web.
19. The FBI estimates there are between 500,000 and 750,000 sexual predators active on the internet per day
Lastly, we should never underestimate the depth of the threat we face online. These sexual predators tracked by the FBI target both children and adults, but if you develop good habits online and don't talk to strangers you've never met in person, you can usually avoid these skeevy individuals and stay completely safe while online. However, it's good to always remember they're out there so you are reminded to stay vigilant and prepared.
Cybercrime: Not a Laughing Matter
The threats cybercrime poses to not only our financial security but also our personal safety are at times overwhelming. It can feel as though there is no escaping. But while this is a very serious matter, taking the proper steps to defend yourself can go a long way.
Make sure all your accounts are protected with a unique password, use anti-virus software, stay out of your spam folder and don't open anything you find in there unless you're 100 percent positive it's safe, double-check URLs and email addresses, and always follow the golden rule: when in doubt, don't click.
If you follow these steps and work to constantly educate yourself about how to protect against the threats we face online, you will avoid being a cybercrime statistic and will be able to browse the web in peace.