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Seattle, it turns out, sees more cyberattacks, phishing and malware infections per capita on computers in use there, based on its population size among other factors, than any other U.S. city, according to Symantec's Norton consumer division, which teamed with research firm Sperling's BestPlaces, to rank the "Top 10 Riskiest Online Cities" in the nation.
Following Seattle, the Top 10 Riskiest Online cities in descending order were Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Raleigh, N.C.; Atlanta; Minneapolis; Denver; Austin, Texas; and Portland, Ore.
"The very factors that make a city council proud of a city are the same factors that make a city at risk for cybercrime," says Marian Merritt, Norton Internet safety advocate, explaining that the riskiest cities are where there are high levels of ownership of computers with affluent people doing online shopping and banking, via broadband as well as plenty of Wi-Fi hotspots — that, combined with high levels of malware infection, phishing and other types of cyberattacks.
That's why large cities such as New York or Chicago didn't land on the Top 10 Riskiest Online List — because in spite of their population size, they don't have the per capita level of consumer computer and Internet use that others have, though New York did rank No.24 on the list and Chicago No.35 on the full list of 50 cities that Symantec and Sperling's BestPlaces put together.
Some may scoff at the notion that some cities are riskier online than others. But Merritt says Symantec looked at the riskiest cities question by drawing from sources that include the vast compilation of attack data culled from Symantec's intrusion-detection network that monitors cyberattacks, extracting data based on IP address co-related to geographic location.
Norton's partner on the project, Sperling's BestPlaces, already had a mountain of demographic information, including information such as numbers of wireless hotspots, she pointed out. Wireless hotspots are deemed as risky because it's relatively easy to eavesdrop on someone's Wi-Fi connection, and Norton advises never entering sensitive data when browsing via public Wi-Fi network.
Though many may assume that cybercrime is always an indiscriminate series of attacks such as phishing or attempted break-ins that blanket everywhere equally, the reality is that cybercrime "isn't broad — it's far more a targeted attack," Merritt says. She says the kinds of affluent individuals who spend a lot of time online, whether working, shopping or for entertainment, especially if their behavior is sometimes careless in terms of security, are the very type that criminals want to go after.
Keeping a computer protected with security software and up to date with patches is needed as a baseline protection, according to Norton.
Some of the Top 10 Riskiest Online findings about why cities are risky:
- Only Atlanta and Miami receive more spam than Boston.
- In Washington, D.C., 22% of residents use the Internet at least five times per day, 39.1% higher than the average.
- In Raleigh, 22% of residents pay bills online and nearly 30% make purchases from sites such as Amazon and eBay -- which is 34.5% and 16.8% higher respectively than the American average.
- Atlanta has the highest number of cyberattacks and infections per capita in the U.S.
- Minneapolis has 43.5 Wi-Fi hotspots per 100,000 residents, which is 39% more than the average from the top 50 cities in the study.
- Seattle had the top scores in all the study's categories.