Asia Pacific social media users are a curious lot. They tolerate the world’s highest incidences of malware, cyber attacks and cybercrime, yet shrug off security precautions as a gimmick, based on the assumption that these types of things only happen to other people.
Up to 61 percent of respondents from the Asia Pacific region report being affected by malware. Forty-two percent admit to opening potentially dangerous links and attachments. Yet 24 percent don’t take security measures seriously.
Kaspersky Lab’s Brett Schetzsle, Consumer Product Marketing Manager, says the region’s stats stand out compared to other parts of the world.
“This certainly could be because they are less informed, but it also could be a disregard for the information that is available to them or a lack of use of security protections,” he said in an email interview. “There are gender, age and cultural factors to consider as well when looking at any body of survey data, which makes it challenging to point to any one particular reason as the root of the cause.”
Schetzsle points to China, where people feel that security measures are not necessary and state regulation is very strong, as an example of some of the region’s demographic peculiarities.
“However,” he continued, “we see that the percentage of people reporting that their social network account was hacked and password changed without permission is 16 percent, which [is] almost three times higher than the global average,” which is 6 percent.
But Jenifer Sunrise Winter, Associate Professor and School of Communications Graduate Chair at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, warns against making sweeping generalizations in Asia Pacific, the world’s most populated region and one with “a striking contrast between high-income and technology-rich countries and others in the region.”
Asia Pacific is home to six out of 25 top performers on the International Telecommunication Unions’s ICT Development Index for 2012, including the Republic of Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, and Australia.
“In 2012, 77.5 percent of the population of the Asia‐Pacific did not have access to Internet, let alone broadband,” said Winter, who was reached via email.
That quickly changed. Winter says the Asia-Pacific Region has demonstrated some of the fastest growth in telecommunications, particularly in mobile devices.
“Access to social media relies heavily on this diffusion of mobile phones,” she explained. “Aside from other cultural, political, or economic factors that might explain the Kaspersky data, for many users, there has not been exposure to public education programs or widespread discussion about these threats.”
Instilling awareness about the dangers of cyberspace will be “no easy task,” said Schetzsle. And it is an issue that needs to be addressed globally, given the 78 percent of respondents who share the notion that hackers are likely to target someone else.
“There is a misconception that victims of cyber attacks will always be someone else or that it will be a big corporation,” he said. “As we’ve seen, that’s not always the case. And it’s important for consumers to educate themselves on security best practices and to also understand the security protection they’re using on all devices.”
Schetzsle says “by conducting research, we can assess how aware consumers and businesses are about IT security risks and then disseminate the research results on global and regional levels.”