One in three Australian adults have been exposed to data breaches in the last 12 months, according to new analysis from The Australian National University (ANU).

The survey of almost 3,500 adults during October 2022 as part of the ANUpoll series of surveys found 32.1 per cent said that they or a member of their household had been the victim of a data breach.

The findings follow major and high-profile cyberattacks in recent months.

Study co-author Professor Nicholas Biddle said the survey’s findings show cyberattacks were one of the fastest growing types of crime Australians now face.

“Roughly one third of adult Australians, or around 6.4 million people, have been the victim of a breach in the last 12 months,” Professor Biddle, from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, said.

“In comparison our survey found only 11.2 per cent of Australians had been the victim of serious crimes like burglary or assault in the last five years.

“As our lives become more and more dominated by data, so too does our exposure to data related crime. This is a serious issue that needs serious attention.”

The survey found the age group most likely to fall victim to data breaches are Australians aged 25 to 34, with 41.5 per cent of this cohort saying they had been exposed.

The survey also found trust in key institutions with regards to data privacy declined, particularly telecommunication companies, in the last two months. In addition, over the last 12 months there has been a large increase in the number of Australians who thought governments should intervene when it came to data protection.

“Almost all Australian adults, 96.2 per cent, said companies that do not adequately protect consumer data should face significant sanctions,” Professor Biddle said.

“And 92.8 per cent of Australian adults think government regulation of new technologies is crucial for consumer protection. At the same time, 90.6 per cent think government should regulate companies’ use of data. “Breaches like the Optus breach clearly impact on trust in the whole system of data governance, and Australians are crying out for stronger regulation and better protection.”

The findings from the latest ANUpoll are available at the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.

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