A Study Reveals a Range of Behaviors That Make People More Susceptible to Hacking —
A study from Michigan State University revealed that impulsive behavior online, like obsessive use of social media, shopping, and downloading music, is tied to a higher risk of falling victim to cybercrime. People with such characteristics are especially vulnerable around special calendar events and holidays.
“People who show signs of low self-control are the ones we found more susceptible to malware attacks,” said Tomas Holt, professor of criminal justice and lead author of the research. “An individual’s characteristics are critical in studying how cybercrime perseveres, particularly the person’s impulsiveness and the activities that they engage in while online that have the greatest impact on their risk.”
Low self-control, Holt explained, comes in many forms. This type of person shows signs of short-sightedness, negligence, physical versus verbal behavior, and an inability to delay gratification.
“Self-control is an idea that’s been looked at heavily in criminology in terms of its connection to committing crimes,” Holt said. “But we find a correlation between low self-control and victimization; people with this trait put themselves in situations where they are near others who are motivated to break the law.”
The research, published in Social Science Computer Review, assessed the self-control of nearly 6,000 survey participants, as well as their computers’ behavior that could indicate malware and infection. To measure victimization, Holt and his team asked participants a series of questions about how they might react in certain situations. For computer behavior, they asked about their computer having slower processing, crashing, unexpected pop-ups and the homepage changing on their web browser.
“The Internet has omnipresent risks,” Holt said. “In an online space, there is constant opportunity for people with low self-control to get what they want, whether that is pirated movies or deals on consumer goods.”
As Holt explained, hackers and cybercriminals know that people with low self-control are the ones who will be scouring the internet for what they want — or think they want — which is how they know what sites, files or methods to attack.
Understanding the psychological side of self-control and the types of people whose computers become infected with malware — and who likely spread it to others — is critical in fighting cybercrime, Holt said. What people do online matters, and the behavioral factors at play are entirely related to risks.
“It seems that your personality is critical to your vulnerability to cybercrime. Various scammers and hackers use time, fear, and money to lure people into their net,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “If you notice an online deal that sounds too good to be true, don’t be impulsive and think twice. It might save you from losing your online identity, sensitive data, or money.”
The research has found that even though younger people, especially millennials, are perceived as more tech-savvy, some of them are more likely to fall victim to scammers. That is because they are more open about sharing personal information and tend to take more risks online. This group is especially vulnerable when hackers disguise malware, viruses, or scams as a legitimate app, deal, or website.
“Last year, more than 1 billion people were affected by various data breaches. This year, a massive security breach has potentially exposed the private data of as many as 800 million people, making it one of the biggest leaks in the history,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “All this data is an invaluable resource to hackers who can now tailor sophisticated phishing or social engineering scams. It will certainly be used this year, and those who show impulsive behavior online are likely to suffer”
NordVPN’s digital privacy expert points out that different software protecting users from malware is not enough. Their behavior is just as important. “You can have the best antivirus, the best VPN, the best firewall, but if you provide your credit card details to a scammer, none of these will help you,” explains Daniel Markuson.
The self-control of nearly 6,000 respondents was evaluated during the research. Researchers measured how people would react in different situations involving digital behavior.
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