When it comes to cyber crime, almost all Canadians expect they will be victims but almost half think it's OK to "steal" movies and music online, a survey suggests.
Almost all Canadians surveyed - 99 per cent - in the new cyber crime study expect they will be victims of online fraud, experience identity theft or "something bad is going to happen to them" online.
"It is gloomy," said Lynn Hargrove, director of consumer solutions for Symantec Canada, an antivirus software maker which did a global study on cyber crime's human impact.
"It's almost all of us. I think they have more of a sense of online doom," Hargrove said of Canadians.
Despite the feeling of helplessness about cyber crime, almost 50 per cent of Canadians believed it was OK to "steal" music and movies from the Internet, the survey found.
"It's an interesting look at people's online ethics," Hargrove said.
Free does have a price, though.
"Obviously, cyber criminals are taking advantage of free."
She noted that organized crime can put malware on content that is being downloaded for free, leaving people exposed to having their personal information silently stolen.
"They want to steal your personal information to sell."
Other ethical questions found that 11 per cent of those surveyed thought it was OK to impersonate someone online and 12 per cent thought it was OK to browse someone else's files and email.
"There's still work to be done," Hargrove noted about online ethics.
Globally, the attitude toward being a victim of cyber crime isn't much better.
The study found that 97 per cent of those surveyed expected that a cyber crime would happen to them.
More than 7,000 people were surveyed recently in 14 countries including Canada, Australia, India, Brazil, the United States and China.
Overall, the attitude toward the Internet is that it's still not a safe place to be even though it's now a major tool for information, entertainment, work and communication.
It's a feeling of helplessness that usually takes over, Hargrove said.
She described it as: "I have been a victim, but I don't know what to do."
The survey found that 85 per cent of Canadians didn't believe that cyber criminals would be brought to justice, feeding into the victim mentality.
RCMP Cpl. Louis Robertson of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre said because the Internet is "faceless," people can feel helpless when it comes to cyber crime.
"You can receive an email without knowing where it's coming from," Robertson said from North Bay, Ont.
"Why are we helpless? Because we still don't know what to do when we have an Internet problem," he said, noting that the web world knows no borders.
The anti-fraud centre asks consumers to recognize telephone and online fraud and report it.
Robertson said prevention programs about cyber crime need to be developed for today's young people who often take the Internet and their cellphones for granted as their primary communication tools.
Consumers need to be aware that organized crime uses malicious software, viruses and email scams to get personal information like passwords to bank accounts, credit card numbers, and also for identity theft.
Symantec calculated the cost to resolve a cyber crime at $582, which includes having to buy new software, hardware, lost money and consulting an expert to fix the problem, and concluded that it took 17 days to resolve a cyber crime.
Other findings by the survey:
64 per cent of respondents have experienced some kind of cyber crime.
About three-quarters of respondents felt responsible for their cyber crimes.