A new study by security vendor Symantec reports that Internet crime has grown into a widespread problem globally. It also provides intriguing insights into consumers' lax attitudes toward online piracy, plagiarism, and other illegally or unethical activities.
Some 7,000 adults in 14 nations participated in the Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact, which was released Wednesday.
The study says that cybercrime is quite commonplace; more than 65 percent of participants say they've been a victim of online crime, including virus or malware attacks, online scams, phishing, social network profile hacking, credit card fraud, and sexual predation.
Malware attacks, which have affected just over half of all respondents, are by far the most common form of cybercrime. With more serious offenses, however, the victim rate drops dramatically. For instance, just 10 percent of adults say they've fallen prey to online scams, and a mere 7 percent have experienced credit card fraud.
China tops the list of online crime hotspots; 83 percent of respondents there have been victimized. Brazil and India tie for second at 76 percent; and the U.S. is third at 73 percent.
For businesses, the Norton report has some thought-provoking implications. Just over a quarter (28 percent) of adults worldwide expect to be defrauded online, and nearly nine out of ten (86 percent) think about cybercrime.
While the latter statistic isn't too shocking--after all, being aware of criminal activity is a pretty good self-defense mechanism--the former suggests that a fair number of consumers still have qualms about the safety of online commerce. That uneasiness may stem in part from the fact that eight out of ten people assume that online criminals, shady characters who typically operate in countries where prosecution is unlikely, won't pay for their crimes.
When it comes to digital piracy, many people are willing to participate in online activities that are clearly illegal offline. While few of us would consider stealing a CD or DVD from a brick-and-mortar retailer, roughly 15 of 100 people think it's perfectly "legal" to download a movie, music track, or album without paying for it.
The anonymous nature of the Internet no doubt plays a large role in the public's attitude toward online piracy: It's okay to do it if you won't get caught.
On the plus side, nearly three of four people have learned not to share passwords (duh) or to open e-mail attachments from strangers. So efforts to educate the online masses are working--albeit at a gradual pace.