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Microsoft: 42% of Americans endure daily or weekly attacks on personal data

The good news is people are getting smart to these attacks.

Phishing for passwords
Credit: Thinkstock

A new survey conducted by Microsoft shows that PC owners are under a constant attack for their personal information and private data, but the good news is people are wising up to these crooks and not taking the phishing bait.

The report found 42% of Americans report experiencing weekly and even daily attempts by criminals to gain access to their PC, while 28% report attacks via landline telephones, 22% via tablet computers, and 18% report daily or weekly fraud attempts via their mobile phones.

The bad guys are shifting their modus operandi as well. Traditional scams like asking for fake lottery winnings or anything that requires an up-front payment have decreased. Criminals are shifting to social media and are now more likely to attack through Facebook than through email. The survey found 41% have experienced some kind of scam effort against them on Facebook.

On the encouraging side of things, users are much more aware of the risks on the Internet and are taking much more aggressive, proactive steps to protect themselves. For example, 73% of respondents said they take measures to protect their mobile devices, compared to just 48% two years ago.

Those steps include downloading apps from trusted sources (49%, up 21 points), keeping apps up to date (41%, up 17 percentage points), using a PIN to lock their device (39%, up 19 percentage points) and using the newest version of the OS (37%, up 16 percentage points).

In addition to the report, posted on the Microsoft on the Issues blog, Jacqueline Beauchere, chief online safety officer for Microsoft, offered four more tips to avoid identity theft:

  • Be selfish and defensive with personal information by not sharing sensitive details in emails or instant and text messages.
  • Create, use, and keep secret so-called "strong" passwords, which are comprised of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Protect accounts and credit by staying on top of monthly balances and managing lines of credit.
  • Bolster device security by applying regular updates and using legitimate anti-malware programs.
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