A STUDY by Internet security firm Kaspersky showed the majority of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are now concerned about their privacy online, but many of them are still willing to sacrifice their private data in exchange for a free service.

Kaspersky said 40% of the consumers it surveyed in the region claimed they had experienced their accounts being accessed by someone without consent, while 39% reported illegal takeover of devices.

It also said 31% reported about confidential data being stolen and used, while 20% confirmed their private information had been accessed and publicly divulged without their permission.

Kaspersky also found out that “more than one-fifth of the users are still willing to sacrifice their privacy to gain a product or a service for free.”

It said 24% of the users “let their guards down by sharing social media account details for funny quizzes.”

“Moreover, 2-in-10 of consumers surveyed also admitted they need some help to learn how to protect their privacy online,” Kaspersky added.

Stephan Neumeier, managing director for Asia Pacific at Kaspersky, was quoted as saying: “Our data on hand suggests a complex online behavior within our region. It is a welcome progress that majority of consumers are now concerned about their online privacy but their virtual habits and security know-how must undergo an overhaul.”

“With the current remote working situation in the majority of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region, digital privacy should be a concern for both personal users and enterprises. Our corporate networks have reached the comfort of our homes, in turn increasing cybercriminals’ surface of attack. It’s definitely high time to improve cyber hygiene for both our personal and professional reputation and peace of mind,” he added.

As for the consequences of a privacy breach, 39% of Kaspersky’s respondents said they were “disturbed” by spam and advertisements.

Some 33% said they were “stressed,” while 24% reported their personal reputation was “damaged.”

“Cybercriminals tend to follow chaos. Whenever there is a major trend or a crisis, they will use it as a perfect opportunity to exploit the heightened human emotions which make users more vulnerable. To protect yourself during this critical time, it is important to be careful about the personal particulars you share online and to understand how these data will be used. Revisit your privacy settings and tweak them accordingly. The internet is a place of opportunities and anyone can benefit from it as long as we know how to intelligently manage our data and our online habits,” Mr. Neumeier explained.

Kaspersky said private data leak can be avoided if users can “identify potentially dangerous or questionable requests made by an application, and understand the risks associated with different types of common permissions.”

Kaspersky said it offers Security Cloud, which incorporates a “Do Not Track” feature to prevent the loading of tracking elements that monitor users’ actions on websites and collect information about them.

“For businesses, teach employees about the basics of cybersecurity. For example, not opening or storing files from unknown e-mails or websites as they could be harmful to the whole company, or to not use any personal details in their passwords. In order to ensure passwords are strong, staff shouldn’t use their name, birthday, street address and other personal information,” it added.

The company said the study, which involved 3,012 respondents from countries in the Asia-Pacific region, was conducted between January and February 2020. — Arjay L. Balinbin