Survey Reveals 64% Americans are Victims of Cybersecurity Breaches

New research shows majority of Americans don't trust security of personal information shared online even as they neglect recommended cybersecurity practices themselves.

Cybersecurity / Hacking
File: People wearing balaclavas are silhouetted as they pose with a laptops in front of a screen projected with the word 'cyber' and binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014. |

The lack of security in cyberspace was thrown into sharp relief over the last couple of years with a slew of data breaches rocking the United States. From the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee's emails to the leak of celebrities' personal images obtained from iCloud servers to the information breach of 1 billion Yahoo email accounts, the threat posed by hacking to online data has never been greater than it is today.

To gauge the state of security present in the cyber sphere, the Pew Research Center surveyed 1,040 adults in 2016 to determine their experiences with cyber-attacks. The survey, released on Thursday, found that a staggering 64 percent of Americans had been personal victims of a major data theft or fraud and that most of them have lost trust in various institutions -- especially the federal government and social media sites -- when it comes to protecting their personal information.

Out of the 64 percent who were identified as victims of cybersecurity breaches, 41 percent were victims of credit card fraud, 35 percent had faced a compromise of sensitive information (such as account numbers), 16 percent had their email accounts taken over by another person and 13 percent reported the same had happened with their social media accounts.

Almost half of Americans, 49 percent, feel that their personal information is less secure than it was five years ago. While their lack of faith extends to various entities like telecommunications firms and credit card companies, it is the federal government and social media sites that the public is most concerned about. Around 28 percent of Americans do not trust the federal government to keep their personal information secure while 25 percent lack any confidence in social media sites to protect their data from unauthorized users.

Despite a clear lack of trust in these online institutions, a large number of Americans fail to follow cybersecurity practices themselves. According to the survey, 41 percent of online adults have shared their passwords with a friend or relative, 39 percent use the same password for multiple accounts and 25 percent admit to using simple passwords which are easy to remember.

With cybersecurity being in the fragile state that it is today, following basic safety precautions like enabling two-step authentications, creating different passwords for different accounts, and using password managers are a must to prevent cyber fraud and theft of personal data.

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