SMS scams top the list of cybersecurity threats experienced by consumers

SMS scams are on the rise with the advent of generative AI. — AFP Relaxnews

Cybercrime is on the rise. According to the 2024 report from the cybersecurity software firm, Bitdefender, SMS scams – often facilitated by artificial intelligence-powered tools – are now the most widespread security event experienced by consumers.

Of all the consumers surveyed, almost a quarter (24%) said they had experienced one or more security incidents in the last 12 months. At 37.6%, Australians are the most affected, ahead of respondents in Spain (27.7%) and the USA (26.7%).

Generally speaking, young people (37.5% of 16-24 year-olds) report experiencing this type of incident more than the over-55s (11.9%). This may be linked to people’s ability to recognise scams as they get older.

SMS scams (45.4%) top the list of most frequently encountered security incidents, closely followed by attempted fraud (44.4%) and phishing (42.1%).

Despite the risk, many consumers still fail to protect themselves sufficiently against these attacks. While a large majority of those surveyed (78%) carry out sensitive transactions from their cellphone, such as banking or accessing healthcare-related sites and services, almost half do not use any security solution whatsoever.

The main reason (38%) is that users trust the mobile operating system installed on their device (iOS or Android), but almost a quarter of respondents (23%) don't even know that it's possible to buy security solutions for mobile devices. Meanwhile, the majority (76%) believe they are not a target for cybercriminals, which encourages poor cybersecurity practices.

Last but not least, password management is as alarming as ever. Over a third of respondents (37%) write down their passwords somewhere, and 34% use the same password for at least two accounts. Only 23% use a password manager, and 17.3% use the autofill function of their web browser.

All in all, the majority of those surveyed (67%) are concerned about cybersecurity issues. However, there are major geographical disparities. For example, while 80% of people in Spain admit to being concerned, only 49% of Italians fear this type of scam.

The results of this survey* demonstrate the importance of raising public awareness of online threats and cybercrime in general. Indeed, a majority of internet users continue to be fooled by the increase in AI-assisted SMS scams or cleverly crafted phishing emails. – AFP Relaxnews

*This study was carried out by the Censuswide consultancy between December 2023 and January 2024 among 7,355 consumers aged over 16, divided geographically equally between France, Germany, Spain, the USA, Italy and the UK.

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