Internet users stressed out by cyberattack news: Kaspersky

2,500 people in the US and Canada were asked about their thoughts on internet usage during COVID-19 and cybersecurity.

A new Kaspersky survey found that internet users in the US and Canada increasingly believe the internet is stressful. The findings coincided with a more general increase in internet usage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its "Dealing with a new normal in our digital reality" report, Kaspersky researchers found that almost 70% of the 2,500 consumers surveyed said they find news about data breaches to be stressful.

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More than half of respondents said their use of online services increased during the pandemic, and 56% said being online has become a source of stress for them. A quarter of those surveyed said their time online has increased significantly. 

The numbers were also far higher for millennials, 64% of whom said their internet usage increased compared to just 45% of Baby Boomers. 

Surprisingly, the figures represent a decrease compared to previous reports released in 2019 and 2018. Nearly 80% of respondents in 2018 said data breaches caused them stress, a 7% increase compared to the findings in 2021. More than 60% also said ransomware was a "top concern."

Despite the stress caused by news of data breaches, there was an increase in the percentage of respondents who said they felt more prepared to protect their digital accounts from attack. 36% of respondents said they felt more prepared to deal with an attack, while 23% said they felt less prepared. 

Just 30% of those surveyed said they use any kind of security platform to protect their devices and personal information. Kaspersky researchers found that 46% of respondents believe they have a basic understanding of cybersecurity, while 17% said they were "experts." Those figures represented a decrease compared to 2019, when 52% of respondents said they had a basic understanding of cybersecurity. 

As a way to cut down stress, 53% of respondents said they watched TV, while 32% used online workout tools and 14% used meditation apps. 

Despite the stress of the internet and news, 51% of Gen Z respondents and 49% of millennials told the researchers that they used social media as a way to relax.

Archie Agarwal, CEO at ThreatModeler, said the report shows a paradox as respondents are extremely worried about security incidents, and yet this does not necessarily translate into action. 

For example, 64% feel having their bank account compromised would be more stressful than losing their job and yet 44% do not use PINs to protect their mobile devices. 

"With the prevalence of mobile banking, this outwardly seems puzzling. As fear may not necessarily be a good motivator to action, organizations should be mindful of using fear to motivate employee behavior regarding good security practices and look for positive reinforcements," Agarwal said. 

"The continual slew of cyber security news will not slow down anytime soon, and barring desensitization will continue to be a major stressor in our society. From the research, it is clear most respondents consider themselves to be under-equipped in terms of cyber security know-how. Fear is often a consequence of not knowing or understanding and feeling ill-prepared."