Consumers lost $19.4 billion to cybercriminals in 2017

Technology Editor
Yahoo Finance
FILE PHOTO: The Symantec booth is seen during the 2016 Black Hat cyber-security conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on August 3, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: The Symantec booth is seen during the 2016 Black Hat cyber-security conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on August 3, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo

Millennials may be the most connected generation yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re the smartest when it comes to keeping their data safe. According to a new report by cybersecurity firm Symantec (SYMC), makers of Norton antivirus software, 69% of those from the social-media generation fell victim to a cybercrime in 2017 in the U.S. alone.

Millennials were not the only ones duped by criminals. Everyone from Baby Boomers to Gen X’ers were impacted by cybercrime last year. All told, Symantec’s 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report indicates that more than one half of the adult internet population in the U.S., or roughly 143 million people, were hit by some form of malware, virus, spyware or phishing scam in the past year.

Globally, that number jumps to a whopping 978 million internet users who were hit by tech savvy criminals looking to score an easy buck. And score they did. Symantec says U.S. consumers lost $19.4 billion and about 20 hours of time dealing with the impact of cybercrime. That amount jumps to $172 billion when you take the rest of the world into account.

Of course, it makes sense that many of those losses were the result of consumers making some very basic missteps in securing their data. For instance, the report claims that 60% of U.S. users who were struck by criminals shared at least one of their passwords for their devices or online accounts with another person. That’s a cardinal sin in the church of cybersecurity.

Stop sharing your Netflix password with everyone you know. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
Stop sharing your Netflix password with everyone you know. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The U.S. isn’t alone, though, as 58% of consumers globally decided to share their passwords with someone else.

The easy way to avoid this is to think of the situation thusly: Everyone you share your password with could have had their own accounts compromised. So, the next time you ask your dad for his Netflix password, you’ll know why he tells you to get your own account.

Then there were the 24% of U.S. consumers who decided that they could be the exception to the rule and use a single password across multiple online accounts. That’s the digital equivalent to leaving your key in your front door next to a sign that says “I bet you can’t take my stuff.”

The cohort that was the best at ensuring they used different passwords for their various online accounts was the Baby-Boomer generation, with 69% knowing not to reuse “P@ZZWURD!” for their Netflix, Hulu, credit card and Amazon accounts. Unfortunately, 24% of them also wrote down their passwords on a piece of paper, which isn’t the safest way to store them. I’m looking at you, Mom!

So, what does Symantec suggest you do to ensure you stay safe online? Simple, just follow the most basic cybersecurity best practices. Change your passwords every few months, don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts, don’t share your passwords, use an antivirus program — Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender is pretty solid — and use due diligence when opening emails, clicking on links or downloading attachments online.

Now if I could just do all of that myself.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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