NEW YORK — Cyber criminals are launching a relentless tide of attacks on US internet users — hacking 1,966 Americans every minute, virtual private network provider NordVPN can reveal.
With the festive season offering cyber criminals a host of opportunities to cash in, the average US adult suffers a cyber attack of some kind four times a year, Nord’s latest research shows.
The scale of the onslaught means that Americans suffer 1.03 billion attacks each year — or 33 per second.
Security breaches have become so common that most who experience them don’t realize hackers are to blame.
Seeing a pop-up advert that is extremely difficult to close only happens due to hacking, yet these were encountered by nearly half of respondents (47.9%) over the past 12 months.
So is having your email account hijacked so friends and colleagues receive spam from your address — experienced by nearly a third (32.1%) of Americans. A similar number of people (35.5%) reported websites opening on their browser without being clicked on.
However, hacking also extends to more serious attacks. More than one in five people (21.4%) had suffered theft of money, bank credentials or financial data. A similar number (18.9%) were asked to pay a ransom to regain access to their accounts, files or to stop such information being published online. Disturbingly, given the huge rise of video calls over the past couple of years, 17.2% had experienced hackers gaining control over their computer’s webcam.
For some, cyber attacks are a regular occurrence, with 16.5% of respondents saying they suffered more than 20 hacks in the past year. But not everyone has been targeted by cyber crooks. One in three Americans (35.9%) suffered no hacks at all in the past 12 months. These are likely to be those who take greater precautions around their online security or spend less time online. (see top tips for staying safe online below)
Marijus Briedis, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, said:
“There is no let up in the fight against cyber criminals who are launching wave after wave of attacks against Americans online.
“Many of these incidents are now so common that people don’t regard them as hacks at all. The fact that tens of millions of Americans now consider being hacked part of the cost of using the internet shows how big a problem this has become.
“Everyone should be investing in their security and checking for malware and account breaches whenever hacks like these are discovered. Infiltrations can appear innocuous one day but become very serious the next and hackers will sometimes probe victims’ responsiveness to decide what they can get away with.”
Table: Cyber incidents in the US and % of people who experience hace at least once
• While browsing, I got a pop-up advertisement that was extremely difficult to close - 47.9%.
• My internet browser suddenly opened up a website I didn’t click on - 35.5%.
• Friends/colleagues reported receiving suspicious emails containing links or attachments from my email address - 32.1%.
• My computer or phone was infected with a virus - 29%.
• My email, social media or financial accounts were locked or hacked - 29%.
• I was tricked into clicking a link and entering personal/bank details on a fake website - 26.6%.
• My password(s) or username(s) were stolen - 26.1%.
• A file was downloaded to my computer without my consent - 23.2%.
• My financial data, bank credentials, or money was stolen online - 21.4%
• Data on my computer was damaged or destroyed due to a cyber attack - 19.4%.
NordVPN recommends the following steps to stay safe online:
• Use strong passwords. Take advantage of modern features in computers and mobile phones that suggest strong passwords for you. The NordPass tool also generates and stores complex passwords.
• Encrypt your files. Even if someone got hold of your files, they would not be able to access them.
• Use common sense. Don’t click on suspicious links or ads, and avoid opening suspicious messages or websites. Do not give out personal data to people or companies you don’t know.
• Keep your social accounts private. Make your social media pages visible only to people you know and trust.
• Do not share your personal information. Keep details like your phone number or home address out of the public eye.
• Use a VPN service. It will encrypt your traffic and hackers won’t be able to see what you do online. Using a VPN is essential if you use public Wi-Fi or share sensitive files over the internet.