One in five adults have fallen victim to hackers – and one in 50 has lost more than $15,000, says British survey

One in five adults has fallen victim to hacks targeting their email accounts, social networking accounts or online bank accounts, according to a British survey conducted by the University of Kent. Around 16% had lost money to cybercrime, and one in 50 had lost more than £10,000 ($15,000).

On average, cybercrime has cost every British citizen £1.50 ($2.30), according to the researchers, Dr. Julio Hernandez-Castro & Dr. Eerke Boiten of the University of Kent, who used Google Customer Surveys in their research, polling groups of 1,500 people around Britain.

The figures on how many users had fallen victims to hacks were similar to those found by U.S. Google researcher Elie Burzstein, and highlight the global scope of cybercrime.

“When asked the question “Has anyone ever broken into any of your online accounts including email, social network, banking, and online gaming ones?” a surprising 18.3% (or approximately 1 in 5, virtually identical to the 18.4% found by Bursztein) answered positively. Even more worrying is possibly the fact that 6% of those surveyed said this had happened more than once (for 6.4% for USA-Bursztein).”

The researchers also attempted to quantify the financial losses involved in security compromises. Surveying 1,500 people using Google Customer Surveys, the researchers found that 11.6% of those surveyed had lost more than £65 ($100) in the past two years to online computer-based fraud.

“A very significant percentage of the population (2.3%) claimed to be quite badly hit – with losses over £10,000 ($15,000),” say the researchers, adding that further research is needed to understand these severe losses.

“Online crime has a clear impact on the lives of average UK citizens, with their accounts and credentials being compromised significantly and in some cases multiple times,” the researchers say. “This and other incidents online translate into financial losses that, despite not affecting large numbers of people, have quite a large impact on the few (around 3% of the population) that are very badly hit.”

The number of people falling victim varies widely by age, the researchers say, “Those aged in the range 55-64 answered “No” to this question rather more often than the rest- this result was consistent across areas and particularly acute in England (with 91.3% compared to an average of 70.4%),” the researchers write. “ Of course, this can be interpreted in various ways: either they are more cautious online, or spend less time, have fewer activities and accounts, or perhaps keep an overall better security.”

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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