March 29, 2010 By Hilton Collins
The threat of falling victim to cyber-crime is so ubiquitous today, and some of America's biggest cities are even more prone than elsewhere in the country, according to a well known producer of cyber-security software.
Norton from Symantec, a popular antivirus provider, teamed up with the research organization Sperling BestPlaces to discern which cities were the riskiest hot spots for cyber-security, publishing the results March 22 in The Norton Top 10 Riskiest Online Cities report. The 50 cities identified in the report make up a laundry list of the most famous places in the country.
The top 10 listed are:
Other notable cities in the remaining 40 include Honolulu (11), Las Vegas (13), San Diego (14), New York (24), Los Angeles (30), Houston (32), Phoenix (34) and Chicago (35). Rankings were determined from Symantec data on cyber-crime, third-party data on online behavior and demographic data from Sperling.
These cities have been ranked based on the numbers of malicious attacks received; potential malware infections; spam zombies; bot-infected machines; and places that offer free Wi-Fi, per capita. They were also ranked based on the prevalence of Internet use; computer use, based on consumer expenditures for hardware and software; and risky online activity, like purchasing via the Internet, e-mail and accessing financial information.
Seattle ranked in the top 10 of all categories, which is how it wound up as No.1 riskiest city in the survey.
"When you look at the data, they are way ahead on all these measures, so you've got a concentration of heavy usage of technology engaging in the kinds of activities that we know increase your risk of being a victim of cyber-crime," said Marian Merritt, Norton Internet Safety Advocate.
But Merritt said people who don't live in one of the riskiest cities shouldn't ignore basic Internet safety procedures.
"Even if your city's not on the list, you as a citizen could be the kind of person who still engages in all the things that would have made your city rank higher," she said. "Even if you live in a rural environment but you're somebody who's constantly on the Internet and you have high-speed connections when you do online banking, you'll be encountering more risk than other people."
A city's concentration of busy Internet users had a lot to do with where it wound up on the list. Detroit came in at No. 50 because people there apparently don't have the Web-centric capabilities and usage patterns in the same high numbers compared to a city like San Francisco, which came in at No. 4.
"[Detroit is] the 50th -- the lowest ranking for cyber-crime. They're also low with access to the Internet. They're not spending as much on computer equipment. There's a whole bunch of factors that made them fall to the bottom," Merritt said.
She added that a city's digital safety environment might be something the municipal government would want to consider in projects to expand wireless capabilities to underserved communities.
"There's a responsibility to make sure that people who get new access to technology or services like broadband understand that there are risks and how to mitigate them," she said.