54 million Europeans hit by cybercrime in last year

More than 54 million Europeans were affected by cybercrime in the past year with many more complacent about their online security, a report from Norton by Symantec has warned.

The cybersecurity company released its latest annual Norton Cyber Security Insights Report on Wednesday, which included results of an online survey of 21,000 consumers around the globe.

According to the survey, 75 percent of consumers are still willing to click on links or open potentially malicious email attachments from senders they do not know.

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The survey also found that millennials, those people who reached young adulthood in 2000, are the most commonly affected by cybercrime, with 30 percent experiencing it in the last year, and 40 percent willing to share their password with others.

The survey tested respondents to see if they could tell the difference between a real and a fake banking email and found nearly four in 10 Europeans failed to recognize the fraudulent message. This could indicate they were at risk of falling for a phishing scam, where a hacker steals private information using fake emails.

"Our findings show that people are growing increasingly aware of the need to protect their personal information online, but aren't motivated to take adequate precautions to stay safe," Nick Shaw, general manager and vice president of EMEA Norton by Symantec, said in a press release.

"While consumers remain complacent, hackers are refining their skills and adapting their scams to further take advantage of people, making the need for consumers to take some action increasingly important."

Consumers need to recognise that they have an important part to play in protecting themselves and their data, says Ryan Rubin, managing director of IT Security & Privacy EMEA at global advisory firm Protiviti.

"As the study highlights, many of us are not good at fulfilling our obligations when it comes to security and many are quick to share information without asking any questions. Many do not see it as their responsibility to get educated," he told CNBC in an email.

"We are even reluctant to use difficult-to-guess passwords and more secure authentication mechanisms and to reset passwords on a regular basis, seeing it as a pain. Few do any due diligence before registering for and/or using online services."

Rubin suggested that ways to deal with consumer complacency is better user awareness or using password "vaults", which allow consumers to use one password in order to access more complex passwords; this would avoid the problem of using the same or similar password across multiple systems.

"It is important for us all to remember that being online is a privilege and requires a level of responsibility. It is essential that we all get Cyber Street Smart and do the basics," he added.

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