New Bitdefender report reveals risky online consumer data protection

Bogdan Botezatu, Director for Threat Research and Reporting at Bitdefender

Bitdefender, a global cybersecurity leader, released the 2021 Bitdefender Global Report: Cybersecurity and Online Behaviours, showing how consumers across various age groups and socio-demographic backgrounds behave on popular platforms, applications and devices. 

Findings show basic practices for securing data, protecting identity and sharing information are lacking despite increased threats and heightened concern over cybercrime.

Bogdan Botezatu, Director for Threat Research and Reporting at Bitdefender had insights.

“Understanding consumer online security behavior trends is crucial for strengthening cybersecurity across society. Cyber criminals continuously explore new ways to exploit human weaknesses to steal sensitive data, extort money, or gain a foothold inside systems.”

“By understanding routine cyber security practices, we can better gauge potential risks to educate consumers on ways to effectively protect themselves such as prevention, detection and digital identity protection technologies to stop attacks from being successful.”

The report, based on a survey that polled more than 10,000 consumer internet users across 11 countries, examines the use of popular online platforms and services, personal cybersecurity practices, level of exposure to threats and more.

2021 Bitdefender Global Report key findings include


Poor password practices are still common

At least half (50%) surveyed said they use a single password for all online accounts, and nearly one-third (32%) use just a few passwords and reuse them across multiple accounts.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents use simple passwords such as 1234 to lock their mobile phones and 11% do not lock their mobile phones at all.

The use of simple passwords is most common among 18 to 44 year-olds, and males self-reported using simple passwords more than females (31%, compared to 23%).

Many don’t use cybersecurity protection software on mobile phones

Surprisingly, nearly 35% say they do not use antivirus on their mobile phones.

The most common reasons cited for this were: 30% believe mobile phones do not need it, 22% feel it is too expensive, and 16% think security is built-in. Additionally, an average of 41% do not use private browsers and more than half (52%) do not use a VPN.   

Mobile phone scams lead the threats

A majority of respondents (61%) said they have experienced at least one mobile cybersecurity threat in the last 12 months. Mobile phone scams involving unsolicited texts and calls were the most frequent threats noted in the survey at 36%.

The report showed that respondents struggled from mobile phishing at 23%, data breaches at 12%, social network impersonation at 11%, financial fraud at 9% and ransomware at 8%.

Although few respondents had experienced financial fraud, it ranked highest in terms of concerns, with 41% stating they worried about it. The age group most concerned with overall threats were 35 to 44-year-olds, followed by those in the 25 to 34-year-old range.

Lack of child supervision poses significant security risks 

Parents were queried on how much they supervise their children’s internet browsing behaviors and application installation. Shockingly, the survey found an average of 36% of children have fully-unsupervised access to computers, mobile phones and tablets.

The United States led all other countries in the survey with unsupervised access approaching 50% compared to all other countries reporting less than 40%.

The majority of consumers are highly exposed

When analyzing all respondent behaviors, from password reuse to the number of online accounts and services, to sharing of account details and lack of security services on their devices, almost 60% of consumers were deemed “exposed” or “rather exposed.”

Just 11% of respondents could be deemed “secure” in their cybersecurity practices.  

Online Behaviours

Smartphones used most frequently to access online services

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents primarily access online services using a personal smartphone, with 61% of those using the Android operating system. Personal laptops came in second at 45%, followed by Smart TVs at 30% and personal desktops at 28%.

23% report using at least one work-issued device to access personal online accounts.

Most have social media and online shopping accounts

63% of respondents reported having a social media account and 54% an online shopping account. Other top services used include video streaming at 40%, telecommunication and health platforms at 29% and utility services at 28%. 

Age and gender influence digital platform behaviors

With an average of eight online platforms used per respondent, there were key differences across age groups and gender when it comes to the top three platforms used.

At 51%, female usage on Facebook is higher than males at 42%.

The 35-44 age group is 21% more likely to use WhatsApp compared to 18 to 22 year-olds who also are 26% less likely to use Gmail compared to those 55-65. 

Most users understand privacy settings

A positive finding on online privacy shows 51% know how to change internet browser privacy settings and 46% read through privacy policies when signing up for new accounts.

However, 46% also declare they dislike choosing new passwords for each new account and 38% dislike requirements to use multi-factor authentication.

Personal identification details are commonly shared

Personal identification details, including name, birthdate and even physical address are commonly shared online, with males being more likely to share their details than females.

Gender is the most common detail shared with 54% of respondents always sharing, followed by the name (43%), personal email address and birthdate (40%) and physical address (29%).

Young adults of 18-24 are more likely to share personal information than other age groups.   

About the Survey

The 2021 Bitdefender Global Report: Cybersecurity and Online Behaviours was commissioned by Bitdefender and carried out by the market research firm iSense Solutions.

A total of 10,124 internet users between the ages of 18 and 65 years old were polled online. Surveys were conducted across 11 countries in North America, Europe and Australia, with total data weighted according to the size of the online population in each country.

Data were collected and analyzed from June 2021 to August 2021.