Worst States For Cybersecurity

Where Identity Theft Risk Is Highest

Worst States For Cybersecurity
July 16, 2018

Your data is under constant attack from hackers. Unless you take steps to protect your personal and account information, you're at a high risk for identity theft – and the residents of some states are less vigilant than others when it comes to cybersecurity.

A survey conducted by cybersecurity company Webroot and the Ponemon Institute found that Floridians are the least protective of their security. Sunshine State residents scored a -6.29 on the Cybersecurity Index – an average of survey results that assigns point levels to specific behaviors. Good security practices like the use of anti-virus software and regular updates earn positive points, while poor practices like sharing passwords and use of unsecure public wireless connections subtract points.

The rest of the ten worst states for cybersecurity practices are Wyoming (-5.55), Montana (-4.28), New Mexico (-3.78), Illinois (-3.07), California (-3.05), Arkansas (-2.94), Louisiana (-2.91), Idaho (-2.86), and Arizona (-2.82).

Residents of these states tend to pay for their poor practices. In the five worst states for cybersecurity, over 70% of survey respondents admitted to sharing passwords. Those same states had the highest average number of residents with over ten malware infections per year.

Password practices aren't much better nationwide. Only 36% of respondents say they never share passwords at all – and 19% claim to frequently share passwords. Give identity thieves a simple opening, and they will take advantage of it.

Cybersecurity is so poor on a national basis that only fifteen states ended up with positive index numbers – led by New England neighbors New Hampshire (4.29) and Massachusetts (4.20). Only four other states have index numbers greater than one – Utah (2.44), Rhode Island (2.30), Minnesota (1.90), and Nebraska (1.14).

Other survey statistics highlight the indifference to security. While data from Javelin Strategy and Research shows that identity theft scams cost Americans almost $17 billion in 2017, the Webroot study shows that less than 25% of us routinely take security precautions to prevent them – such as monitoring bank/credit card statements and updating online passwords.

Anti-virus software is a great help, but only half of respondents take this precaution – and not everyone who installs anti-virus software keeps it updated.

Perhaps the most surprising statistics are related to consumers who have experienced identity theft already. A surprising 14% of identity theft victims made no change at all in their online behavior and cybersecurity practices after the theft. If you can't learn from your mistakes, you're doomed to repeat them.

Responses to an identity theft were surprisingly weak. Just over half of identity theft victims (54%) changed passwords after the theft and 39% monitored financial accounts more closely. Thirty-seven percent signed up with a credit monitoring or identity protection service. Just over one-quarter limited online purchases to reputable sites (which is always a good idea) and 14% limited online purchases altogether.

Webroot's advice to cybersecurity slackers is pretty simple – take the advice we've been giving you all along. Use anti-virus software and keep it regularly updated. Use strong passwords that are difficult to hack, regularly update those passwords, and don't repeat them or use the same passwords for multiple sites. Keep your operating system and applications up to date on all your devices (computers, tablets, and phones). Stay updated on the latest phishing scams and don't click on suspicious links or attachments.

All are common-sense suggestions – but Webroot's data suggests we don't use common sense very often when it comes to securing our data. Don't be foolish or lazy with your cybersecurity practices or prepare for the headaches of resolving fraudulent charges and rebuilding your credit score.

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