A report from Atlas VPN finds that one in three Americans worries about identity theft, while only 20% are concerned about becoming a murder victim. Along with being concerned about identity theft, 72% say they are worried about having personal information stolen by hackers. This may indicate a separate fear of stolen information not being used for ID theft, or the two concerns could be conflated.
SEE: Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Twenty-five percent were concerned with being the victim of a hate crime, and 29% of being caught in a terrorist attack. Compare those numbers (along with aforementioned murder fears) to fears of cybercrime, and there’s a stark contrast.
Those fears may be founded, Atlas VPN said, citing statistics that there were 7.9 billion individual records exposed in 2019, a 33% increase from the previous year. “2019 was also the year of someone in the US becoming an identity theft victim every 2 seconds. Health services, retailers, and public entities were suffering the most,” the report said.
Who is worrying, and what about?
The report cites figures from the University of South Carolina that found mobile users are the most worried about identity theft, though the reasons they’re concerned don’t necessarily line up with the kind of ID fraud that is actually happening.
At the top of the list for mobile users’ concerns was ID theft, followed by stolen passwords, not knowing what their personal data is being used for, personal info being sold by third-party vendors, and location tracking.
As the report points out, individuals being attacked isn’t the big risk: “Hackers invade systems with the primary goal of getting profit,” which is why they would rather go for the big payouts they can get from attacking a business.
SEE: The 10 most important cyberattacks of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
So are individual users wrong to worry? Not really, but know that in the world of identity theft your personal information isn’t what’s important: It’s what attackers can do with it.
New credit card fraud was up 88% last year, the report said, meaning most cybercriminals are opting to use personal details stolen in data breaches, sold on the dark web, and able to be turned around for quick profit.
So, it’s not your mobile device that’s the security problem: It’s enterprises not protecting your data.
“Hackers are finding new ways to overcome the current security measures. Every company has to be on its toes and expect a serious attack sooner or later,” said Atlas VPN COO Rachel Welch.
“I believe the number of credit card-related identity theft cases will continue to grow. Nowadays, almost anyone who knows how to access the Dark Web can order equipment required to forge a fake credit card. In general, the damage related to cybercrime will hit $6 trillion by the end of this year,” Welch said.
In short, buying stolen personal data on the dark web is cheap and easy, and using that information to create fake credit accounts is just as simple.
So yes, you’re right to worry about identity theft, but don’t blame your mobile device or your own behavior for your anxiety: Blame enterprises who aren’t keeping up on their cybersecurity.