SINGAPORE--The average citizen in the island-state is losing more money to cybercrime, compared to other countries, due to Singaporeans' affluence and higher incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft.
The two attributes led to direct monetary losses, according to Symantec's Norton Cybercrime Report 2012 released today.
The report, which studied 500 Singaporeans aged 18 to 64, found the direct cash cost--or money stolen--and cost of resolving cybercrimes increased from US$195.2 million in 2011 to whopping US$944 million this year.
The number of Singaporeans who experienced cybercrime in their lifetime decreased from 80 percent last year to 72 percent this year. Those who experienced cybercrime in the past 12 months also reduced from 66 percent to 48 percent, according to the report.
The increased cost of cybercrime with the smaller scale of people affected led to the increased average cost of cybercrime per person, noted Effendy Ibrahim, Internet safety advocate and Asia director of Symantec's Norton.
Speaking at a media briefing here Thursday, he said the report found the average direct financial cost per victim in Singapore was US$657, compared to a global average of US$197.
The study polled 13,000 respondents aged 18 to 64 from 24 countries including Japan, China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Effendy noted that Singaporeans were more affluent compared to other countries surveyed, so more money was lost from its citizens who were victims of cybercrime. Incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft among Singaporeans were also higher than that of the global average, he observed.
Credit card fraud and identity theft incidents in the island-state clocked at 10 percent and 8 percent, higher than the global average of 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively, he said. These two crimes were the main generators of cybercriminal revenue, as opposed to viruses, malware, and online harassment, he explained.
In spite of this, Singapore's consumer cybercrime loss of US$944 million was still significantly lower than that of other Asian countries due to its small population. China, for instance, saw losses of US$46 billion, while India's cybercrime losses totaled US$8 billion, Effendy said.
He pointed to the cost of cybercrime per victim as a clearer indicator of how the country is affected by cybercrime.
Basic security hygiene, but still lack understanding
Singapore's higher per victim cybercrime cost could be due to its state of security hygiene, Effendy said.
He noted that Singaporeans have taken basic steps to protect themselves and their personal information, such as deleting suspicious e-mail and being careful with their personal details online. However, many are still unaware of how cybercrime has evolved over the years, and cannot recognize how a piece of malware behaves on their computer.
According to the study, 3 out of 10 Singaporeans still did not understand the risk of cybercrime or how to protect themselves online. Some 65 percent were not completely sure whether their computers were 'clean' and free from viruses.
Another 36 percent did not know a virus or malware could act in a discreet fashion, making it difficult to recognize if a computer had been compromised. Some 55 percent agreed unless their computer crashed or slowed, it was difficult to know if their computer was infected with a virus or malware.
"Complacency and ignorance [among Singaporeans] are a dangerous combination and can lead to potential cybercrime losses," Effendy warned.
Win 8 to proliferate, but carries security risks
The launch of Windows 8 on Oct. 26 is also set to change the way consumers use mobile devices and the way mobile malware is spread, said David Hall, Asia-Pacific consumer product marketing manager of Symantec's Norton, who was also speaking at the briefing.
It is likely many will adopt the Windows operating system (OS) for its convenience and user-friendliness since it is able to run on many different devices, Hall noted. This is unlike other vendors such as Google and Apple which OS can only be used on the vendor's respective OS, he said. The iOS, for instance, can only run on Apple devices, he added.
However, Hall is less convinced of the efficiency and security offered by Windows 8. As the Microsoft OS comes bundled with a free antivirus suite, this will cause Windows 8 to run slower since security suites often slow down the running of operating systems, he explained.
Many malware and viruses which run on Windows 7 will also be able to run on Windows 8, which means users of the OS version will be susceptible to the same security threats, he added.
As the new Microsoft operating system can be used across different devices, and the number of Windows 8 users is likely to increase, it is easier for malware to be transmitted from user to user across devices, he explained.
What users need is simplicity in security offerings, along with the ability to run these tools across multiple devices, Hall said, citing an earlier Symantec survey which found 55 percent of Singaporeans wanted a multi-device Internet security product.