Two Thirds of Americans Worry About Hackers, Identity Theft

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Sixty-six percent of American adults worry frequently or occasionally about being a victim of identity theft, and 67 percent worry frequently or occasionally about having their personal or financial information stolen by hackers, a recent Gallup poll of over 1,000 U.S. adults found.

In comparison, just 38 percent of respondents worry about having their car stolen or broken into, just 36 percent worry about their home being burglarized when they're not there, and 30 percent worry about being a victim of terrorism.

According to Gallup, American's fears about cybercrime may be driven by high-profile news reports about data breaches at Equifax, Anthem, Home Depot and others.

Still, personal experience is also a factor -- 25 percent of respondents said they or another member of their household has had personal information stolen by hackers within the past year, and 16 percent said they or another household member was a victim of identity theft in the past year.

Just 3 percent said their home was broken into in the past year, and another 3 percent said a car belonging to them or another household member was stolen in the past year.

Virsec Systems CEO Atiq Raza told eSecurity Planet by email that far too many businesses have been marketing a "don't worry, be happy" message about cyber security that jars with reality. "This is causing a serious erosion in trust, but may have some healthy results," he said.

"Consumers need better information about structural problems in cyber security, and objective analysis along the lines of Consumer Reports, about how well companies are protecting their data," Raza added. "Customers should punish businesses that suffer breach meltdowns, but they need better information and alternatives to reward companies that are doing the right thing."

Who's Responsible?

A separate Ponemon Institute survey of 549 consumers, 334 CMOs and 448 IT professionals found that while 80 percent of consumers believe companies have an obligation to take reasonable steps to secure their personal information, just 65 percent of CMOs and 64 percent of IT professionals agree.

The survey, sponsored by Centrify, also found 62 percent of consumers have been notified by a company or government agency that their personal information was stolen as a result of a data breach. Of those, 36 percent were affected by two or more incidents.

Sixty-five percent of consumers impacted by data breaches said the experience caused them to lose trust in the organization affected by the breach -- and 31 percent said they've terminated their relationship with the affected organization.

Forty-three percent of IT professionals and 31 percent of CMOs said their organization has experienced a data breach exposing more than 1,000 records containing sensitive or confidential customer or business information in the last two years.

While 71 percent of CMOs believe the biggest cost of a security incident is the loss of brand value, just 49 percent of IT professionals agree -- and 45 percent of IT professionals and 42 percent of CMOs don't believe brand protection is taken seriously in the C-Suite.

NuData Security marketing director Lisa Baergen said by email that the Ponemon and Gallup findings together reaffirm that consumers and shareholders are holding companies responsible for securing PII, and for data leaks and breaches.

"While internal departments debate responsibility, consumers and shareholders are holding the brand responsible -- making it everyone's problem," Baergen said. "The tangible economic impacts of breaches will only grow. Moreover, hackers are no longer working away in a basement -- cybercrime today is highly organized, well-funded, increasingly automated and extremely lucrative."

"Every company with PII must advance its defense posture, and those who are ahead of the pack are most likely to survive and thrive, while those who move more slowly become the easiest prey -- to hackers, and to investor and consumer sentiment," Baergen added.

More then ever, an optimal security posture is critical for business reputation - and survival.

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