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A new article published on Fear of Cybercrime in Europe

Published 5.6.2017

An article by Suvi Virtanen, a research trainee at HEUNI, has been publishes in Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. The article “Fear of Cybercrime in Europe: Examining the Effects of Victimization and Vulnerabilities" examines the relations of social and physical vulnerabilities and victimization experiences and fear of online crime using Eurobarometer survey data. Overall, the results of the study indicate that social and physical vulnerabilities as well as victimization have direct and indirect effects on fear of cybercrime, just as with traditional place-based crimes.

There are many challenges associated with cybercrime, and fear of it is a major component that hinders the willingness of individuals to use online services. Such reluctance leads many to miss out on the social and economic benefits provided by an Internet-connected world. A recent Eurobarometer survey revealed that Internet users express high levels of concern about cybersecurity, and 85% agree that the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime is increasing. The levels of concern have risen since 2013, which suggests that Internet users feel that the virtual environment is becoming more unpredictable and less secure.

The article discusses two main research questions: The first is whether or not physical and social vulnerabilities such as gender, social status and lack of confidence in navigating the virtual environment predict higher levels of fear of cybercrime. The second question focuses on exploring the interaction effects between prior victimization experiences and social vulnerabilities on fear of cybercrime.

The research presented in the article show that individuals with prior cybercrime victimization experiences, women, and individuals with lower social status and lower confidence in their ability to use the Internet report higher levels of fear. Low social status and low confidence was found to have a significant interaction effect with prior victimization experiences in relation to fear of cybercrime. Prior victimization experiences with online fraud appear to increase fear of cybercrime in low social status individuals more than other groups. Experiences with hacked accounts or cyberattacks also intensifies the fear of those with low confidence more than those with a higher amount of confidence. Overall, the results of this study indicate that social and physical vulnerabilities as well as victimization have direct and indirect effects on fear of cybercrime, just as with traditional place-based crimes.

These findings suggest that in order to reduce fear of online crime, individuals with lower social status and women should be prioritized as high-interest targets. It is possible that the association between social and physical vulnerability factors and fear are partly mediated by confidence in one’s abilities to use the Internet, and this is therefore suggested as a topic for future research. If the hypothesis proves to be correct, educating and strengthening the abilities of women and low social status individuals to use the Internet may prove fruitful in reducing fear of cybercrime. Furthermore, the findings in this study suggest that prior victimization is an important factor to consider when helping individuals to cope with fear, regardless of the gender of the victim.

The article can be downloaded at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/rkWapsVWiPuMrgnSUu5F/full

More information: Suvi Virtanen; suvi.virtanen(at)helsinki.fi , +358408617590