Seeing an online deal you can’t pass up? Don’t press that button just yet.
Impulsive online behavior like shopping, downloading music, and obsessive email use are tied to higher rates of falling victim to hacking, a study from Michigan State University published on this week shows. The research found a range of behaviors that lead someone to become a victim of cyber crime. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Social Science Computer Review.
‘Cybercriminals use fear, time and money to lure victims to making them do something they wish they had not.’
“People who show signs of low self-control are the ones we found more susceptible to malware attacks,” Tomas Holt, professor of criminal justice and lead author of the research said. “An individual’s characteristics are critical in studying how cybercrime perseveres.”
Someone who shows “shortsightedness, negligence, physical versus verbal behavior and an inability to delay gratification” are at higher risk for hacks like “Trojans” — where hackers disguise malware as legitimate sofware — viruses and malware, the researchers said.
Researchers assessed the self-control of nearly 6,000 participants, measuring how they would react in different situations involving computer behavior. It found those who make decisions impulsively are more likely to be hacked.
These hacks are especially prevalent around the holidays: Attackers often impersonate the unsuspecting victim’s favorite brands and the victim will impulsively click a link to get a good deal. Often hackers impose a false time limit on the deal to further incentivize victims to click soon.
Hacking is on the rise
Ransomware attacks, in which an attacker holds important data hostage, increased 2,500% in 2017, according to computer security firm Carbon Black. Hackers often target small-to-medium sized businesses. A hacker many times will enter a businesses’ system by zeroing in individual employees, said Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at Washington D.C.-based security provider Thycotic.
“Cybercriminals are well trained in the art of using social engineering to lure unsuspecting victims to click on a simple, seemingly harmless link,” he said. “However, it is an extremely malicious malware waiting to take over your account, steal your money or even worse steal your identity.”
Even though younger people are often perceived as more computer-savvy than their elders, some are more likely to fall victim to scammers because they tend to take more risks online.
“Cybercriminals use fear, time and money to lure victims to making them do something they wish they had not,” Carson said. “Cybercriminals will sift through tons of social media information to search what you are looking for and offer you the best deal in the world simply just to steal your password to your accounts.”
This can put personal accounts at risk as well as business accounts if a user clicks on a nefarious link at the office. Not only are professionals at risk, your children and your home computer network could also be affected, David Ginsburg, vice president of marketing at Santa Clara, Calif.-based cybersecurity provider Cavirin said.
“I have two daughters in high school, and I definitely see this in their generation,” he said. “Schools need to introduce dedicated instruction on ensuring one’s cyber posture.”
In fact, even though younger people are often perceived as more computer-savvy than their elders, some are more likely to fall victim to scammers because they tend to take more risks online and are more open about sharing the personal information.
While many kinds of software protecting users from malware focus on physical risks, behavioral risks are just as important, he added.
“If we can identify risk factors, we can work in tandem with technical fields to develop strategies that then reduce the risk factors for infection,” Holt said. “It’s a pernicious issue we’re facing, so if we can attack from both fronts, we can pinpoint the risk factors and technical strategies to find solutions that improve protection for everyone.”
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