Which US State Is Most At Risk Of Cybercrime In 2018?
By Tom Watts
If you've had your social media account hacked, identity stolen, or been stung by credit card fraud, then you've been a victim of cybercrime - the fastest growing type of criminal activity in the United States.
Last year a Gallup survey revealed that Americans are more worried about cybercrime than other conventional crimes including physical assault, burglary and even terrorism.
Cybercrime is affecting more and more people each year and is fast becoming a digital epidemic, especially as our lives become more and more entwined with the world wide web.
Protecting ourselves from cybercrime costs governments, businesses and everyday consumers (like you and me!) millions of dollars each year - yet the severity of attacks keep getting worse.
But why is this?
The reason is twofold. It is a combination driven by the increasing sophistication of technology used by cyber-criminals and an inadvertent (or unwilling) lack of awareness on the part of victims.
The technology we can't do much about. Yet taking stock of your own cybersecurity habits is something that everyone should take more seriously.
After all, you most likely don't keep a safe full of cash at home, but you still check to make sure the door is locked when you leave so that no-one can wander in and take what they want. Yet more than 60% of American adults use online banking, so why wouldn't you check to make sure your online presence is as safe as your real world house?
To raise awareness of the potential risks you're exposed to, we've crunched data from the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Insurance Information Institute to identify the US States where individuals are most at risk in 2018 and the financial impact this could have on them.
In what might be described as an unwelcome honor, we found that it is the Golden State itself that sits on top of the pile for 2018's 'most at risk state'.
It may be the land of sun, sea, and Schwarzenegger, but our data indicates that California is set to have the highest number of cybercrime complaints over the coming 12-months, with more than 55,000 complaints projected to occur.
This is a massive 33% more complaints than second-place Florida, whose population is set to report around 37,000 incidents in 2018. What's even scarier is that Californians are set to report more cyber-incidents than the bottom 27 States combined.
However, one thing Californians can cling to is that on an individual level they are actually less likely to be the victim of a cybercrime. They may report the highest total number of incidents, but it is the population of Michigan who report more cyber-incidents per population than anywhere else.
The population of the Wolverine state report just over 200 incidents per 100,000 population, while California sits at around 130 incidents per 100,000 population. So if you live in Cali, you're 44% less likely to experience a cyber-incident than someone in Michigan thanks to the sheer number of other potential victims available. Some solace eh...
On a slightly more positive note, our study found that Vermont and Wyoming are the States where individuals will report the lowest number of cyber-incidents, while Louisiana and South Dakota have the lowest density of cybercrime incidents reported per 100,000 population.
Our research also took into account the financial impact of cybercrime on individuals in each US state - after all, there's nothing worse than seeing an unfamiliar transaction draining hard-earned money from your bank account.
It's probably unsurprising, but California isn't just going to experience the most cyber attacks, but is also on course to have the most amount of money stolen too - it's a digital double-whammy.
Our dark and stormy predictions sit heavily over the Sunshine state with estimated losses predicted to be in excess of $329m this year. That's more than double the amount of second placed New York, whose population is set to lose $139m to cybercriminals. Florida, Texas and Virginia round out the top five states with the biggest overall financial losses.
In a strange twist though, Californians can once again thank their sheer numbers for protection on the financial front too! While the state as a whole is set to receive the most complaints and lose the most money, on an individual level Californians came fourth in terms of 'dollars lost per attack'.
We found that individuals in New York are going to be those hardest hit by cyber attacks, with an average loss of $7,149 per incident. If that isn't an incentive to double-check your passwords, I don't know what is!
Our data crunching placed Virginia second ($6,795 per attack), Colorado third ($6,106 per attack), California fourth ($5,900 per attack), and Oklahoma fifth ($5,714).
So what can you do to minimize the risk you face?
Technology is growing at an unprecedented pace and you won't be able to fully cover yourself 100%, but you can definitely take steps to pre-empt as much risk as possible. Here are our top three recommendations to improve your cybersecurity and minimize your risk:
1. Use a password manager and 2-step authentication
Using a password manager makes sense if you struggle to remember each individual password for all of your online accounts, or you use the same password for across every account (if you do, immediately go change them!).
Password managers can generate, store and auto-fill passwords for you across your online accounts. They're both time-saving and secure. Although it's best to avoid in-browser password managers as they have been proven to be vulnerable to exploitation.
A second layer of security you can add to your accounts is 2-step authentication. Enabling this will require you to enter a generated code that is sent to your mobile phone when trying to log into your online account. It may seem seem a frustrating extra step, but it is a great way of improving your online security.
2. Beware of spyware
If your internet browser keeps spontaneously opening new tabs or additional windows for random adverts or web pages, then you may have a spyware problem. It's not just a pain having to close these windows, but they could also be tracking everything you do.
This potentially means that everything you do online is being recorded and sent back to whoever made the malicious software. This puts you at risk because it means your confidential data could be stolen. Not good.
Fortunately there's plenty of free tools and online advice just a short Google search away that can help you remove the spyware if you think you've been a victim of an attack.
3. Keep your anti-virus software up to date
You've more than likely got some form of anti-virus software already installed on your desktop computer or laptop, so you're probably aware of the value and security it provides.
This makes it a bit of a no-brainer that keeping this software up-to-date is a key element to staying safe online. If you don't update it, how will your anti-virus software know about the latest potential threats to your computer and online experience?
Turn on auto-updates so you don't even have to worry about it. This proactive step will take a weight off your shoulders and prevent the need to panic if the worst does occur.
The data above has hopefully given you a greater awareness of the size of the digital threat that you are potentially exposed to everytime you go online.
If you're concerned about how to better protect yourself, then it's definitely worth taking the time to educate yourself more on the topic and finding out what other steps you can take.
Remember, it's better to double check you've locked the door than to assume it's fine and come home to an empty house.