Updated November 13, 2013

Internet Safety Statistics: Why You Should Be Alarmed

One of the most alarming aspects of Internet security is attackers' ability to adapt. They evolve just as quickly as the tools developed to stop them. They get smarter, come up with new tricks, or change their strategy altogether. In recent years, for example, these predators have shifted their focus from large corporations to smaller businesses, which have fewer resources to fight back and are more vulnerable to attack. And these attackers know where to strike – it all depends on the sites people visit online. For now, that means social media, which seems to be the new stomping ground for getting individual users to give up their funds or identities.

To protect yourself, get equipped with the facts by reviewing the following stats about Internet security risks.

The Rundown: Internet Safety Today

The average number of serious vulnerabilities each website had in 2012, which left them open to breaches. This number was down from 79 vulnerabilities in 2011.

Percent of websites that had at least one serious vulnerability exposed to attack every day of 2012.

Percent of these vulnerabilities that were resolved.

Number of days companies took, on average, to resolve these vulnerabilities.

The increase of targeted attacks in 2012 compared to the previous 12 months.

The average number of identities exposed per data breach.

Bad for Business

Percent of targeted attacks aimed at businesses with fewer than 2,500 employees.

Percent of targeted attacks aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees, nearly doubling from 18% in 2011.

Top Industries for Spam

  1. Marketing/media
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Recreation
  4. Agriculture
  5. Chemical/pharmaceutical

Top 5 Industries for Phishing

  1. Public sector
  2. Finance
  3. Education
  4. Accommodation/catering
  5. Marketing/media

Top 5 Industries for Malware

  1. Public sector
  2. Education
  3. Finance
  4. Marketing/media
  5. Accommodation/catering

Top 5 Sectors with Most Identities Breached

  • 36% - Health care
  • 16% - Education
  • 13% - Government
  • 9% - Accounting
  • 6% - Computer software

Top Causes of Data Breaches

  • 40% - Hackers
  • 23% - Data accidentally made public
  • 23% - Theft or loss of computer or drive
  • 8% - Insider theft
  • 6% - Unknown
  • 1% - Fraud

Areas Under Attack

Email Spam

30 billion
Estimated number of email spam per day in 2012.

Percent of those emails that were sexual in nature.

Percent of spam that is pharmaceutical related.

Social Media

  • >500 million people are active Facebook users
  • 175 million on Twitter
  • >100 million on MySpace
  • >80 million on LinkedIn

Common Threats

  • Viruses: Often embedded in a website or third-party application, an attacker can infect millions of computers by relying on users to share malicious links with their contacts.
  • Tools: Tools allow attackers to take control of users’ accounts and gain access to their private data or contacts.
  • Social engineering attacks: A message or post that falsely appears to be from a friend or trusted person, often containing a malicious URL or request for personal information.
  • Identity theft: Attackers may gain enough personal information from social media sites or other resources to guess a person’s passwords to financial and other accounts.
  • Third-party applications: Games and quizzes tied to social media accounts can access profile information, including email addresses, to send unsolicited advertisements and access contacts.

Going Mobile

  • 42% - The increase in number of vulnerabilities to mobile operating systems between 2009 and 2010.
  • The sale of smartphones now outpace PCs, yet security features, such as firewalls, antivirus, and encryption are uncommon.
  • Many users fail to enable the security software that comes with their phones.
  • To learn more about how to protect your phone, visit: US-Cert.gov

Top Mobile Threats in 2012

  • 32% - Information stealing
  • 25% - Traditional threats
  • 15% - User tracking
  • 13% - Content sending
  • 8% - Device reconfiguration
  • 8% - Adware/annoyance

Common Online Scams

  • Work-at-home scams
  • Weight loss solutions
  • Lotteries and sweepstakes
  • Fake checks
  • Imposter
  • Mystery shopper job
  • Bogus apartment rentals
  • Miracle cures
  • Debt relief
  • Pay-in-advance credit offers
  • Investment schemes
  • "Nigerian" emails
  • Online dating
  • Money transfers
  • Tech support

For more information on how to protect yourself or your company from Internet predators, visit:

  • Federal Trade Commission
  • OnGuardOnline.gov


Kelly Teh is a contributing features writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Kelly Teh at kelly@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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