SINGAPORE--The city-state is one of the most susceptible in the world to Internet dangers, with the typical cybercrime victim a male Singaporean born between 1980 and 1993, according to the Norton Cybercrime Report 2011.
The new Symantec report, which studied 500 Singaporean adults, found that 86 percent of men are likely to be a victim of cybercrime, compared to women, at 74 percent.
Effendy Ibrahim, consumer business director at Symantec Asia, attributed this finding to specific characteristics. Men were more likely to communicate with strangers online, download malicious software and "look at adult content", he explained during a media briefing on Wednesday.
The study found that 72 percent of Singaporean men downloaded computer viruses or malware compared to women at 57 percent. Four times as many Singaporean men, at 23 percent, also viewed adult content online as compared to 6 percent of women.
Additionally, "Millennials" were more willing than "Boomers" or baby-boomers to "take a gamble" when it comes to Internet dangers, said Symantec. Globally, "Millennials" or Internet users aged between 18 and 31 spent an average of 35 hours online per week, of which 85 percent is devoted to social networking. Eighty-seven percent of their Internet access is via free Wi-Fi connectivity.
"'Millennials' have used technology since a young age and grew up using it," Ibrahim noted, adding that the statistics have led Symantec to conclude that "Millennial males" are most at risk when it comes to cybercrime.
Online habits make Singaporeans vulnerable
Globally, Singapore was one of the top six economies in terms of cybercrime victims, along with emerging markets China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.
The study involved 20,000 Internet users across 24 countries. Besides China, India and Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan were the other Asian markets surveyed.
As in the case of Brazil and India, eight in 10 users in Singapore indicated they had been victims in their lifetime, compared to last year's finding of 70 percent and the 2011 global average of 74 percent.
China, which topped the global list, has a score of 85 percent, while 84 percent of Internet users in South Africa and 83 percent in Mexico reported to have fallen prey to cyberattacks.
Nearly half, or 45 percent, of Singaporeans surveyed said they need the Internet in their daily lives, making them susceptible to Internet dangers. In particular, 28 percent indicated that they could not live without the Web, while 36 percent of social network members said they would lose contact with their friends without social networks.
Despite the hunger for Internet activities, 43 percent of Singaporean adults indicated they do not have an up-to-date security software suite to protect their personal information online. At the same time, less than half or 49 percent do not review their credit card statements regularly and 59 percent don't use complex passwords or change them regularly.
"There is a serious disconnect in how people view the threat of cybercrime," Ibrahim added in a statement. "While 94 percent of Singaporeans agree that more needs to be done to bring cybercriminals to justice, fighting cybercrime is a shared responsibility. It requires us all to be more alert and invest in our online smarts and safety."
Cybercrime cost Singapore US$891 million in 2010, while the damage globally clocked in at US$388 billion.
Computer viruses or malware remains the most common cybercrime category, with a share of 64 percent. Eighteen percent were online threats by sexual predators and 16 percent were online scams.
The age of mobile
In its report, Symantec noted the future is "increasingly mobile", with 44 percent of global respondents using their mobile phones to access the Internet. This paves the way for more mobile-related cybercrimes especially in countries with a higher mobile Internet population.
One in 10 adults globally have experienced mobile-related cybercrime, the security vendor found.
Over in Singapore, 69 percent of handset owners accessed the Internet via their mobiles, but only 15 percent have updated security software installed in their devices.
At the sidelines of the briefing, Ibrahim told ZDNet Asia that as long as a mobile device is able to access a Web site, its user would be "susceptible to threat". Google Android, being an open platform, is more vulnerable to mobile cybercrime, compared with Research In Motion's Blackberry and Apple's iOS, he said.
However, even though the mobile threat has increased due to the "explosive growth of mobile devices", attacks on PC and laptops are still "here to stay", warned Ibrahim.