Home Core Dump Many adults turn a blind eye to cyber crime

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Forty-three percent of adults believe at least one type of cyber crime is always or sometimes acceptable.

That's one of the more surprising conclusions of the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report.

A survey collected the opinions of 21,549 respondents in 20 markets around the world, and the results suggest that Symantec's definition of cyber crime might not match that of internet users:

"In the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, a cyber crime is defined as, but not limited to, a number of specific actions, including identity theft, credit card fraud or having your account password compromised."

While the report doesn't reveal what was going through respondents' minds, it is tempting to speculate.

Twenty-six percent thought reading someone else's email without their permission was sometimes okay. Perhaps they were thinking about the need to protect a minor or some other dependent who is not fully competent.

Hopefully the same goes for the 20% who say putting software on someone's machine that allows you to spy and/or track them can be acceptable in certain circumstances. Or for the 19% who countenance changing someone's status, posts or comments on social media without permission.

There's probably little or no harm in using a completely false email address to identify yourself online if you merely wish to preserve a degree of anonymity rather than attempting to mask any antisocial or illegal activity. Using someone else's email is a very different matter, yet 21% of respondents gave the nod to the combination of these two.

Similarly, 20% thought using a false photo or someone else's photo to identify yourself online was sometimes acceptable. We're not sure what "false" means in this context. Using an avatar instead of a photo is a common practice, and using an old or edited photo of yourself is hardly a crime even if it might be misleading in certain circumstances. Adopting someone else's photo without their permission smacks of identity theft.

But what can you say about those who approve — even if only conditionally — of sharing things you know are not true on social media (21%); posting inflammatory, threatening or sexually explicit comments or photos online (17%); using someone else's credit card without permission to shop or book online (15%); stealing someone's personally identifiable information (15%); allowing your device to be used to send spam, malware or attack other computers (15%); or sending emails that trick people into giving out personal, financial or sensitive details (14%)?

Do let us know in the comments if you can think of circumstances where any of those things really are acceptable.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.


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