Online threats

A majority of the British feel vulnerable to cyberthreats, but don’t want to change their online behavior, says a nation-wide survey conducted by privacy protection company Surfshark. Relatedly, about a third of respondents consider their credentials not worth hacking. Among the most vulnerable groups are young women, who are the most committed to improving their online security. And yet, not many take sufficient measures to protect themselves in the digital sphere.

A nation-wide concern

Data breaches reached their peak in 2019, with 164,683,455 data records exposed, resulting in rapidly spreading numbers of identity thefts, credentials stuffings, and blackmail cases. Being exposed to digital threats has become such a common condition of online life that roughly 1/2 people admit feeling exposed to online threats like malware, phishing, data breaches, and credentials loss.

The reason behind a widespread virtual susceptibility usually combines the inability to address security miscues along with unfortunate personal experiences. For instance, young women report being concerned over their online safety due to frequent cases of harassment or cyberstalking. Relatedly, women aged 25 and older are more than 30% less likely to say they feel unsafe online than women aged 18 to 24.

Don’t want to change their habits

Even though the public expresses worry about their online being, the majority say they are satisfied with the level of security they have. Roughly 2/3 men (65%) claim they don’t want to improve their online safety, and more than half (56%) of women admit the same.

At the same time, among all female respondents who have been cyberstalked or harassed, 43% say they are content with the degree of their online security.

The reason why individuals do not want to improve their online safety lies in the erroneous belief that their credentials are not worth stealing. 1/3 men and 1/4 women say they don’t consider themselves as appealing targets for hacking.

This incredulity often results in poor safeguarding of personal privacy or, in some cases, even ignoring warnings regarding the loss of personal credentials. Roughly 15% of men and 8% of women admit they wouldn’t take any measures to respond to compromised online security.

Tech-savvy generation at the highest risk

Nearly 10% of male and 15% of female respondents have faced at least a mild form of online harassment. However, the share of respondents who have been subjects to online abuse is significantly higher among younger adults.

Roughly 1/3 women in the age group of 18 to 24 years felt stalked or harassed online – a figure that is more than double the share among men of the same age.

The survey revealed that younger women – aged 18 to 24 – are more prone to receiving unsolicited explicit imagery. More commonly known as “dick pics,” this type of intimidation has fast gained popularity as a means of harassing young adults on the internet. About 66% of adolescent females admit to having received a “dick pic” in their lifetime.

The nation-wide survey revealed that it is not just women who suffer this kind of sexual harassment. Nearly 21% of men in the ages 18 to 24 say they, too, have received unsolicited explicit imagery without asking for prior consent. However, the tendency decreases significantly with age. Nevertheless, women remain more prone to online intimidation as almost 1/3 female respondents aged 25 and older say they have been sent a “dick pic” at least once in their lifetime.

Vaguely committed

Young women are the most vulnerable age group online, and they feel least protected from digital threats. Surprisingly,  although a third of young women indicate they would like to make the necessary adjustments to address security and privacy issues, they are least likely to take action proactively.

28% of young women – aged 18 to 24 – say they would like to improve their online safety. This figure is more than double the share among female respondents aged 25 and older. At the same time, only 11% of young women say they use at least one privacy protection tool.

Study shows that young women are also more likely to think their online security lies in the hands of the government institutions rather than themselves.

Simultaneously, they are the least likely to update their security settings diligently. 32% of young females say they have not updated their social media security settings at least once in the last year, compared to 16% of men of the same age group.


About the survey

The survey was conducted by the privacy protection company Surfshark in the United Kingdom, June 2019. Given the size of the UK population of around 67,000,000 people, a representative sample survey of 600 people was conducted using the Google Surveys research tool. Taking into account a standard 95% confidence interval and a 4% margin error, the results of the survey statistically represent the population.