The study says that 83% of Windows users had been affected in the last 12 months. However, Android and Mac OS X users were not immune, with 13% and 6% citing infections on their devices, respectively.
Nearly half of Internet users (45%) encountered malicious software during the last year and in most cases (81%) this had a negative impact on both users and their devices, according to the study.
12% of users believe their device was infected after visiting a suspicious website; someone else’s USB flash drive, another infected device, and installation of a malicious app disguised as a legitimate programme were each cited by 8% as the cause of infection. Yet another 7% of those surveyed said their devices were infected after opening an email attachment.
The greater part of those polled, 13% could not explain how malware ended up on their device.
Significantly, four out of five infections caused problems for those affected. Most often (35% of cases) users noticed computer performance slowed down, 30% of respondents experienced obtrusive advertising (e.g. the browser redirected them to unwanted websites) and 20% of those surveyed found unsolicited programs on their devices. Among the most dangerous results of an infection were changes to the browser or the operating system settings without the user’s knowledge (17%), the loss (10%) or theft (8%) of personal data, unauthorised publications or ‘likes’ on social networking sites (9%) and hacking of a webcam (6%).
Moreover, the respondents mentioned having to pay cyber criminals to unblock a device (11% of cases) or decrypt personal files (6%) after being infected by ransomware. Overall, every third (33%) user experienced financial losses as a result of malware infection. As well as having to pay a ransom to criminals, victims spent money on restoring a device or data, on software to eliminate the effects of an infection, and some even had to buy a replacement device. When financial losses were incurred, the average cost of an attack amounted to $160.
“The costs and unpleasant effects of a malware infection can be avoided with a little prudence. For instance, do not insert unverified USB sticks in a device, only use official app stores, keep the operating system and applications up to date and scan files with a security solution before opening them. The ability to foresee potential problems and take precautions is the key to staying safe,” explains Elena Kharchenko, Head of Consumer Product Management, Kaspersky Lab.