Are you more likely to be murdered IRL or hacked online? The existential question of our times has been answered

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Atlas VPN drills down into a Gallup poll to understand Americans’ perceived threat level. It turns out 55% are more worried about cyberattacks.

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Image: iStock/monsitj

The pandemic has brought existential conversations to the forefront in recent months. However, in an increasingly virtual world, threats are no longer reserved for the physical universe we occupy and cybersecurity breaches are increasingly common. It turns out people are more concerned about being hacked compared to acts of physical violence a la being murdered or mugged, according to a recent Atlas VPN post.

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“With headlines around the world being dominated by government security breaches, large enterprise data leaks, and similar cybersecurity issues, the concerns seem to be justified,” the post said.

The Atlas VPN post is based on Gallup US phone survey data collected between Sept. 30 and Oct. 15, 2020. Overall, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said they worry frequently or occasionally about having their “personal, credit card, or financial information stolen by computer hackers,” while 12% of respondents said they never worry about this scenario.

Respondents appear to be more concerned about the risks associated with their online security compared to those involving their physical residences. For example, about one-third of respondents (35%) said they frequently or occasionally worry about a burglary at their residence when they are not home.

SEE: IoT botnets: Smart homes ripe for a new type of cyberattack (TechRepublic)

Nearly seven-in-10 respondents (66%) said they frequently or occasionally worry about “being a victim of identity theft.” This compares to 21% of respondents who said they rarely worry about this scenario. Interestingly, 14% of respondents said they or a member of their household had been an identity theft victim in the last year and this percentage is nearly statistically identical to the number of respondents who said they never worry about experiencing identity theft (13%).

Respondents reported that they worried more about online cybersecurity threats than potentially acts of physical violence. For example, about half of respondents (52%) said they never worry about being murdered and 31% said they rarely worry about this scenario.

More about cybersecurity

Three-quarter of respondents (75%) said they never or rarely worry about being mugged and a similar number (76%) said they rarely or never worry about “being attacked while driving” their car.

Homicides, hacking, and lightning strikes

Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the transition to remote work en masse, the FBI reported a fourfold increase in cybercriminal activity in early 2020. The number of breaches reported during the first six months of 2019 increased 54% compared to the first half of 2018 with more than four billion records exposed, according to Norton data, spanning industries including the financial sector, entertainment, healthcare, and more.

Between 1999 and 2019, the US homicide rate per 100,000 people was 5.8, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention’s Underlying Cause of Death database. For comparison sake, the CDC estimates that a person’s annual chance of being struck by lightning is about 1 in 500,000.

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