Some Demographics of Cybercrime Risk

I wanted to share with you some more results from the cybercrime survey ESET commission and recently released. You can find the entire report at http://www.eset.com/company/CERC_Poll_2009_Oct.pdf.

57% of American computer owners now bank online, however the more money a person makes the more likely they are to bank online. 2/3rds of computer owners who earn $80,000 to $100,000 annually use online banking and 3/4ths of those earning more than $100,000 use online banking. It is not surprising that younger people engage in online banking more than older people. Where 60% of computer owners under the age of 45 use online banking, only 30% of those over 65 do. Surprisingly, geography seems to be a factor. 71% of those users in the Pacific Time Zone use online banking.

As I briefly mentioned in http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog/2009/11/16/once-upon-a-cybercrime%E2%80%A6, there was an indication that on average, Mac users lose more money than PC users do when they are victims of cybercrime. Because the size of the sample set is small, I personally have a hard time reaching a conclusion, despite assurances from someone far, far more education in statistics and surveys that the finding in 99% likely to be accurate. So I decided to look a bit further at the numbers to see if I could find anything approaching an explanation.

If we combine age and income demographics we see that Macs are more popular among younger computer owners. We have seen that younger computer owners are also more likely to do online banking. When we look at income we see that Mac users tend to be more affluent. So, we see that Mac users tend to be in the ranks of those most likely to use online banking and be affluent.

I also blogged http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog/2009/11/18/so-you-think-you-are-smart about the higher degree of victimization amongst more educated users and we see Mac users predominantly in the ranks of the more educated.
Are you seeing a trend? Here comes the trend breaker. Only 18% of the Mac users polled lived in the Pacific Time zone where online banking is far more prevalent.

Online banking however is not the only source of cybercrime. Social networks are very popular amongst phishers. The survey results show that Mac users are significantly more likely to access social networks from their computers. 57% of Mac users reported the use of social networks, where less than half (46%) of PC users did so.

One other interesting point… Educated does not equate to security knowledge. We did find a lower percentage of Mac users who could correctly identify what phishing is than for PC users. Additionally, where 5% of PC users incorrectly identified a trojan horse program as phishing, 11% of the Mac respondents thought a trojan horse program was phishing. If you think a phishing attack is something you believe your computer is not at risk too, does it affect your behavior? I would guess yes, but I don’t have an authoritative answer.

I still would love to see a larger survey, but when trying to identify why this survey showed that Mac cybercrime victims on average lose significantly more than PC cybercrime victims, we do see that in general Mac users fall into most of the demographics of the most victimized users, including having more money to lose. We also see a lower understanding of what phishing is amongst the Mac community. Perhaps, just maybe, the combination of having more to lose with less understanding of the threat, and the perception that the computer can protect them from attacks that are irrelevant to the computer combine for a woeful result.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education

Author ESET Research, ESET

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