Why developed countries are more vulnerable to cybercrime

Developed nations have higher incomes, technology, urbanization, and digitalization, which are all factors for greater cyber risk, says VPN provider NordVPN.

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Any person, organization, or country can be a victim of cybercrime, but some people and places are more susceptible than others. Released on Wednesday, NordVPN's Cyber Risk Index explains why certain countries and regions are higher-risk targets for cybercriminals.

Looking at 50 different countries across the world, NordVPN found that people in developed nations are more likely to become victims of cybercrime. In its research, the company cited four reasons why: 

  1. Higher-income economies
  2. More advanced technological infrastructure
  3. Greater urbanization
  4. Greater digitalization 

Plus, greater mobility combined with a higher overall crime rate increases the cyber risk.

However, the report also ranked countries on specific factors, such as urban population, average wage, internet penetration, smartphone penetration, public Wi-Fi availability, Facebook penetration, and Instagram penetration.

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Among the countries at the greatest risk, Iceland was at the top, followed by Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Norway, and the United States. Sweden took top place because it was highest among all analyzed countries in internet, smartphone, and Instagram penetration. It also came in second on Facebook penetration, third in urban population, and second in highest average month wage.

"Cybercriminals don't look for victims, they look for opportunities--much like pickpockets in crowded places," Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, said in a press release. "Spend enough time in a packed bus, and a pickpocket will 'accidentally' bump into you. Same story online. Your cyber risk increases with every extra hour online."

Comparing two countries, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, found that both were in the top ten for cyber risk. But the US was fifth, while the UK was tenth. Both nations share certain risk factors, such as urbanization level, percentage of people using Facebook or Instagram, and crime index. But, the US is at a greater risk for cybercrime due to a higher monthly average wage, higher density of public Wi-Fi, and greater use of smartphones.

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Image: NordVPN

Looking at the data by continent, Northern Europe was ranked as the most dangerous region for cybercrime, with North America a close second. In both regions, more than 9 out of 10 people use the internet, 8 out of 10 shop online, and 7 out of 10 use Facebook--all factors that lead to higher exposure to cyberthreats.

Among the countries at the lowest risk, India was considered the safest, followed by Nigeria, Iraq, Indonesia, and South Africa. India grabbed its spot because only one in three people there use the internet, fewer than one in four use smartphones, only around 6% use Instagram, and only 34% of the population live in urban areas.

NordVPN developed its Cyber Risk Index with business data provider Statista in three separate stages. First, Statista collected socio-economic, digital, cyber, and crime data from 50 selected countries.

Second, NordVPN analyzed the data's positive and negative impact on cyber risk and calculated the correlation between the first three data sets (socio-economic, digital, cyber) and the fourth (crime).

Third, NordVPN trimmed the data down to the 14 most significant factors, specifically urban population, monthly average wage, tourism, internet penetration, smartphone penetration, time spent on the internet, e-commerce penetration, online games penetration, video-on-demand penetration, public Wi-Fi availability, Facebook penetration, Instagram penetration, crime index, and global cybersecurity index. The company used those factors to create the index and then ranked the 50 countries according to their cyber risk.

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Image: iStockphoto/nicescene