Once Upon a Cybercrime…

Recently ESET commissioned Competitive Edge Research and Communications, Inc. to conduct a study about attitudes, beliefs, and experiences of Americans with respect to cybercrime. There were some interesting results.

One of the findings is that most American’s are not aware that cybercrime is linked to organized crime. Viruses and Trojans are no longer the purview of pimple-faced punks who never see the sun. Malware has become a tool of the organized crime, but only about one out of 5 Americans realize it is not the lone wolf who is biting them.

Not at all surprising is the fact that both PC and Mac users perceive the Mac as being safer, but the statistics show that Mac users are victims of cybercrime just as frequently as PC users. The most probable explanation for this would be confusing viruses as being cybercrime. 57% of Mac users feel it is safe to use their computers without antivirus software where only 27% of PC users feel it is safe to do so. Much of the losses associated with cybercrime are related to phishing attacks. Phishing attacks are just as effective on Macs, Linux, Windows, Solaris, and any operating system since they rely on tricking the user and not upon malicious software or any software vulnerabilities. The Mac offers no immunity to phishing attacks and so we see a virtually equal percentage of victim representation across the board.

A significant part of the phishing problem is ignorance. The survey found that less than 50% of Americans even know what phishing is. It is difficult to defend against something one is not aware of.

An interesting finding was that it appears that when a Mac user is a victim of phishing they tend to lose more money on average than a PC user. I’m not ready to proclaim this as fact since we can’t explain the finding, but that was the undeniable trend found by this specific study.

With respect to online banking, 84% of the general public feels it is at least somewhat safe to bank online. When you look at the reasons given for not banking online then you see that well of over half of those people who shun online banking do so because of security concerns.

Of note, we did find a lower rate of cybercrime victims among people who use both a Mac and a PC. This is probably due to a higher level of computer and internet knowledge. Being educated to the threats and defenses is a quite effective in decreasing the odds of a user becoming a victim of cybercrime.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education

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Author , ESET

  • oldnassau

    "An interesting finding was that it appears that when a Mac user is a victim of phishing they tend to lose more money on average than a PC user. I’m not ready to proclaim this as fact since we can’t explain the finding, but that was the undeniable trend found by this specific study."
    Perhaps the income levels of PC vs. Mac purchasers would tell. After all, when a Rolls Royce owner is the victim of carjacking, he "tends to lose more $$ on the average than a "  (fill in the name of any other automobile).

    • Randy Abrams

      OK, I’ll fill in the names of a few other automobiles… Ferrari, Mazerati, Mercedes :)

      The result was not the same for those who owned both a Mac and a PC though.

      Personally, I think the sample set need set be much larger to identify if this really is the case or it was a fluke. The statistician feels 99% certain of the results though.

  • Michele

    Interesting… My thesis compared the likelihood of Apple OsX users vs Windows vs Linux users of falling for a phishing attach… I would love to see the full report/study!

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