A third of Americans fell victim to cyberattacks last year

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Just as businesses faced a record number of cyberattacks (opens in new tab) last year, so too did consumers with a new study from NordVPN (opens in new tab) revealing that a third of Americans (33%) encountered at least one cybersecurity issue in 2021.

Of those affected, half of them (49%) experienced email scams (or phishing emails (opens in new tab)), while more than a third suffered social media hacks (35%), payment fraud (32%), bank account hacks (29%) and identity theft (opens in new tab) (28%). 

According to cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, Daniel Markuson there was a 27 percent increase in cybersecurity incidents in the US last year when compared to 2020. Even though more people are now being impacted by cybersecurity issues, 50 percent of those surveyed said they think they are well prepared.

When asked about which personal cybersecurity incidents they are most concerned about this year, 51 percent worry their financial accounts will be hacked, 47 percent fear their identity will be stolen, 40 percent worry their social media accounts will get hacked, 37 percent wonder if their smart home devices (opens in new tab) will get hacked and listened to and 21 percent think their medical or vaccine records will be hacked.

As for the kinds of business cybersecurity incidents that have Americans worried this year, over half (54%) fear that a business will get hacked that reveals their financial information, 45 percent worry hackers will sell their personal information on the dark web and almost a quarter (25%) worry their organization will fall victim to a ransomware (opens in new tab) attack leading them to lose money and possibly even their jobs.

Bad online habits

NordVPN's latest study also showed that more than a third of Americans don't update their passwords frequently which corresponds with recent research from NordPass (opens in new tab) which discovered that the most popular password in the US is still “123456 (opens in new tab)”.

American respondents also confessed to visiting questionable websites (30%), using public Wi-Fi (opens in new tab) without a VPN (29%) and opening links in emails or text messages without validating them first (27%). Other bad habits included buying products or services from questionable websites (24%) and storing their passwords on unsecure devices (23%).

Markuson recommends that Americans adopt better online habits and use cybersecurity tools such as a VPN (opens in new tab), antivirus (opens in new tab) and a password manager (opens in new tab) to further protect themselves from cyberattacks.

We've also featured the best VPN (opens in new tab), best antivirus (opens in new tab), best malware removal software (opens in new tab) and best endpoint protection software (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.