Australians overconfident on security prowess despite surging toll of breaches

Online Australians give themselves strong marks on cybersecurity practices despite even though less than half use secure passwords and more than a quarter share sensitive banking and other passwords, according to new surveys of consumer attitudes that have pegged total Australian cybercrime losses at $1.2 billion annually and the cost per security incident at upwards of $275,000.

Even though 90 percent of the 1000 surveyed Australians worried about becoming a victim of online crime, some 55 percent of respondents to Symantec's Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report said they had shared their email passwords with others; 38 percent had shared social-media passwords, and 27 percent shared their online banking password.

This, despite nearly 9 out of 10 respondents saying they would be “devastated” if their financial information was compromised. Most respondents gave themselves an 'A' grade on cybersecurity practices – although only 47 percent said they always use a secure password combining at least 8 letters, numbers, and symbols.

“Consumer confidence has also been rocked by the number of mega breaches that exposed the identities of millions of people who were making routine purchases from well-known retailers,” Norton by Symantec Pacific region director Mark Gorrie said in a statement.

“Our findings demonstrate that the headlines rattled people’s trust in mobile and online activity, but it hasn’t led to widespread adoption of simple protection measures people should take to safeguard their devices and information online.”

These latest results, combined with studies earlier this year and as recently as September, which found that Australian consumers are happy to trade personal details for free mobile apps, paint a telling picture of the gap between perception and reality of exposure to cybersecurity issues.

That gap is having a very real impact on both consumers – who reported average cybersecurity losses at $325 per person and 14 hours per incident – and the companies they work for, with other figures out this week suggesting the average cost to small and medium-sized businesses was more than $US8000 ($A11,125).

That cost ballooned to more than $US200,000 ($A275,000) for large enterprises, according to a new Kaspersky Lab survey of IT specialists in 25 countries – 57 percent of which said cybersecurity incidents had had a negative impact on their company's reputation amongst consumers.

Some 22 percent of respondents said information about their cybersecurity incident had been leaked to the public, with one in four forced to engage external PR consultants to manage the fallout.

Methodologies for calculating the true cost of a data breach may vary, but the latest Kaspersky figures echo other recent findings such as an IBM-Ponemon Institute study that found the cost of breaches increased 23 percent in the past two years. Reputational damage is widely recognised as being a potentially significant side-effect of a breach, beyond the immediate financial losses incurred.

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