Cybercrime: A billion-dollar industry

Are you protecting yourself from getting hacked? Think you're not at risk? According to a recent Norton cybercrime report, 431 million adults in 24 countries experienced some type of cybercrime over the past year, which is up 3 percent from the 2010 study. (The top three cybercrimes, according to the study, are viruses or malware, online credit card fraud, and phishing — or e-mail scams.) In the United States, that comes to 141 victims per minute.

"Our study found over 41 percent of us don't have software security," said Helen Malani, Norton's consumer cybercrime expert. "There's a general apathy about it—a disconnect. Three times as many people have been the victim of online crimes, but yet they are more afraid that they will be robbed on the street."

According to the study, over the past year the United States' total bill for cybercrime topped $139 billion.

"We were astounded by the costs in terms of cash lost," Malani said. "The number came to more than $388 billion globally. That's more than the illegal drugs market in heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Cybercrime is an illegal underground economy and it needs to be taken seriously."

Men are more at risk than women, Malani said, because the adult sites they frequent are more susceptible to cybercrimes. (The Norton report says men are four times more likely than women to view adult content online, and they are twice as likely to visit gambling sites.) Another concern, she said, is the rise in cybercrimes from our mobile devices.

"Mobile crimes are up 10 percent globally," Malani said. "And if you are male, a millennial and mobile, you are the most at risk. Men spend more time online than women. They talk to more strangers online. They visit sites that are more risky, like gaming or adult sites. And the millennials use social networks more often so that is fertile ground for spreading malware."

Here are some of Malani's tips for protecting yourself from cybercrime.

Don't ignore software updates. "Many times the notice for an update will pop up on your computer screen, and people close it out and never go back to it," she said. "It won't take that long, and if you keep putting it off, you could be putting yourself at risk."

Don't share too much onTwitter or Facebook. "Don't say the names of your pets or your kids if those are what you use as your passwords," Malani said. "We do leave the breadcrumbs of information about us online without even thinking about it."

Get creative with your passwords and change them frequently. Instead of a dictionary word or a real name, Malani suggested using an acronym of a phrase; IL2G2S could stand for 'I love to go shopping', for example. And be sure to change the passwords often.

"Also, consider answering the security questions with fake answers," she said. "So instead of giving the real name of your pet or child, pick something that's totally false."

Get an app for your mobile device that protects your data. Malani said only 20 percent of those accessing the Internet from their mobile devices have installed the most up-to-date mobile security.

"There are apps that wipe out your personal data if your phone is lost, or can lock your phone remotely," she said. "Having these can definitely put your mind at ease if your phone is lost or stolen."

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Handy tools for the work napper

    Handy tools for the work napper

    If you want to nap at work, we want to help. (Only if your boss doesn't mind, however.) Here are some interesting items that might make this task a little easier if you're trying to snooze on your lunch break. —Jenniffer Weigel, Tribune Newspapers

  • Protecting your pets

    Protecting your pets

    Pet theft is on the rise this year, one expert says. Here are some tips on how to protect yours.

  • Genealogy gold mine: Millions of wills now online

    Genealogy gold mine: Millions of wills now online

    Thousands of amateur genealogists who fantasize about being left a fortune by a distant relative can now get a reality check. Starting Wednesday, upward of 100 million wills written over the last three centuries will be posted to, the popular genealogical search engine.

  • American recalls French train attack on Jimmy Fallon show

    American recalls French train attack on Jimmy Fallon show

    A California man who was one of three Americans who helped subdue a gunman on a high-speed train traveling to Paris says he couldn't have picked better people to be with that day.

  • Historic Gold Coast rowhouse for $1.375M

    Historic Gold Coast rowhouse for $1.375M

    855 N. Dearborn, Chicago $1,375,000 Listed on May 13, 2015 This historic three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath rowhouse is in the heart of Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. The three-story home has three decks, including a rooftop deck. The home also features hardwood flooring, central air conditioning...

  • Northerly Island Park: Beguiling lakefront landscape justifies Daley raid

    Northerly Island Park: Beguiling lakefront landscape justifies Daley raid

    A dozen years after Mayor Richard M. Daley carried out the infamous “midnight raid” that shut down the small lakefront airport called Meigs Field, the question lingers: Did the end justify the means?

  • 'A Walk in the Woods' is soft and mushy

    'A Walk in the Woods' is soft and mushy

    Because “A Walk in the Woods” quickly wanders from a funny look at life at a crossroads to an obvious series of embarrassing nonsense and basic observations about nature and people, let’s just rattle off some things bumbling around my head during the movie:

  • Chicago beekeepers find mystery, meditation and honey at their hives

    Chicago beekeepers find mystery, meditation and honey at their hives

    You never know what you might find on a Chicago rooftop—a classy lounge, a chill patio, a collection of lawn chairs. But from the Loop to the neighborhoods, there are a few rooftops that are home to a different kind of buzz—the literal buzz of hundreds of thousands of honeybees.