Consumer Security

Gallup Poll: Credit Card Hacking Could Happen to Me

Over the 4th of July weekend, 82 people were shot in Chicago, and at least 14 of them died from their wounds. For the year, there were 63 homicides in Oakland as of late October. Philadelphians logged 47 homicides in the first 64 days of this year, two more than were killed in New York City during the same period.

Yet results of a Gallup poll released last week suggest that more people — by far — are worried about having their credit card information stolen by hackers than getting murdered, or being the victim of a variety of other violent crimes.

“How often do you yourself, worry about the following things — frequently, occasionally, rarely or never?” was the 17th question Gallup asked in its survey, which was conducted over the phone Oct. 12-15 with a random sampling of 1,017 adults aged 18 and above living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Credit card hacks were a concern of 69 percent of the respondents, who were equally divided between cellphone users and landline users.

Younger respondents, and those with higher household incomes, were more concerned about credit card hacks. For example, 85 percent of respondents with a household income of more than US$75,000 were concerned about it, compared to 71 percent in households with income from $30,000 to $74,999, and 50 percent of those in households with an annual income of less than $30,000.

The Rest of Our Fears

Having their computer or smartphone hacked and personal data stolen concerned 62 percent of the respondents.

Another 45 percent were worried about their homes being burglarized when they were out, while 30 percent feared being burglarized while they were at home.

Car theft and break-ins concerned 42 percent of respondents; having a school-aged child physically harmed attending school worried 31 percent; getting mugged worried 31 percent; being the victim of terrorism was cited by 28 percent; and being attacked while driving worried 20 percent.

Getting murdered, being sexually assaulted, or being the victim of a hate crime was a fear of 18 percent of the respondents, and being assaulted or killed by a coworker or employee where they worked troubled 7 percent.

Why We Fear What We Do

Credit card hacks could be the top concern because one in four Americans reported their credit card had been hacked through a store, Gallup suggested.

“The media will dramatize single incidents, but the public is actually being reasonable in its risk assessment,” said Jill Bronfman of UC Hastings College of the Law’s Institute for Innovation Law.

“Many of us have been affected as consumers by data breaches such as those that affected Target and Home Depot, and have received notifications from companies that our personal information has been compromised,” Bronfman told the E-Commerce Times.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Nonetheless, putting murder and other violent crimes on the same level as credit card hacks is unusual.

“It seems to me [Gallup] were considering the frequency of the crime rather than the severity,” Matt Might, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Utah, told the E-Commerce Times. “Clearly cybercrime is a concern, but you can’t conclude people are more afraid of being hacked than being murdered.”

Gallup did not respond to our request for further details.

The Easy Way Can Hurt

Retailers need to tighten up security more, because “I think we’ve erred too far on the side of convenience as opposed to security,” Might said.

“I don’t think there’s a full appreciation at the management level of many companies of the need for security,” he continued. “Target probably wasn’t allocating enough money to security until after the breach occurred and the CEO lost his job.”

However, “security breaks usability, and most consumers prefer convenience,” Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure, told the E-Commerce Times.

For example, Google implemented two-factor authentication some time ago, but few users have taken it up, Jonathan Sander, strategy and research officer at Stealthbits Technologies, told the E-Commerce Times, because “it can be an annoyance to the consumer over time.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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