Security News

9 out of 10 Americans value the data in their online accounts, yet don’t do much to protect it

Stefanie Smith, 28 March 2017

Avast recently surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to find out how they value and protect the data in their online accounts.

Most of us have countless online accounts; and without even realizing it, we spread our personal information throughout the World Wide Web. We therefore wanted to find out how people not only value the information they store in their online accounts, but how they protect their information to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Email is the most important account, but Amazon accounts are most valued

The results reveal that email is still America’s most used online service, followed by Facebook and messenger apps, like WhatsApp. Not only is email America’s most used online service, but it is also the most important for more than half of Americans.

More than nine out of ten Americans claim to value the data in their online accounts.

Here is a breakdown of accounts that Americans said they value at $100 or more:

  • 4% Amazon
  • 5% Dropbox or other cloud storage
  • 9% Email
  • 9% Facebook
  • 8% LinkedIn
  • 7% Twitter
  • 7% WhatsApp or other messaging service
  • 9% Snapchat

Despite the fact that email is both the most used and most important online account for Americans, people value the information stored in their Amazon accounts the most.

The data you value the most could be up for grabs

While the majority of us feel the information stored in our accounts is valuable, cybercriminals don’t seem to agree. Cybercriminals acquire account information, including usernames, passwords, and credit card details, through security breaches and sell this data on the darknet for $2 or less, depending on the Bitcoin exchange rate.

With major services like Yahoo and LinkedIn being breached and data leaks appearing online, it’s no wonder that more than half of Americans (54.6%) are not confident that their personal data is secure.

Compared to other countries, the U.S. is the country where most respondents said they have been affected by a data breach, with more than a quarter claiming so. Another 18.2% of Americans said they aren’t sure if their data was included in a breach.

More action needed to secure accounts

Nearly one-third (32.4%) of Americans never took action to change their password after being informed of a data breach and out of those who took action, just under half  (46.9%) changed their password for the site hacked, but not for other websites. This is alarming, as cybercriminals often use credentials obtained from data breaches to access to other accounts on the chance they are protected by the same password.

Databases with stolen data often show up on the darknet years after a breach happened, for further cybercriminals to purchase and abuse. This is why it is crucial you change your passwords on a regular basis and not wait until a data leak becomes known to do so.

Nearly one-third (32.4%) of Americans never took action to change their password after being informed of a data breach.

Good quality services hash their customer passwords, meaning encrypted versions of passwords, rather than clean password versions, appear in leaked databases. This is a good way of protecting customers, however, as consumers, we are responsible for securing our accounts and the data we keep in them. If a password is simple and, for example, only contains letters, a few characters and no special characters or numbers, hackers can easily guess the password. Lists of the most frequently used passwords exist that hackers can use to hack their way into an account.

Password managers are helpful tools you can use to generate strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts and easily change them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, only 8% of respondents use a password manager to protect their accounts.

We share a lot of personal information on the internet every day, whether we realize it or not. And while cybercriminals may not value our data as much as we do, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth protecting. You may think you have nothing to hide or maybe you wouldn’t mind someone reading your private messages, but how would you feel if information like this were used to blackmail you? Piecing together information, hackers can steal your identity or money from your online accounts. They can cause havoc by locking you out of your accounts, deleting the information in your accounts or even going as far as contacting people under your name. The extent to which cybercriminals can abuse the data you share and store within your online accounts is endless, making it vital for you to take proper measures to protect it.

Full Avast Data Protection Report (PDF)