Joe Public has joined U.S. business owners in worrying about cyber risk more and more.

Cyber-related concerns grew by more than 20 percentage points among consumers from last year, moving from the fifth-ranked to the third-ranked concern overall, in the third annual Consumer Risk Index conducted by  The Travelers Companies.

One in four Americans say they have been the victim of a data breach or cyber attack, according to the survey.

“Cyber threats are joining the ranks of the conventional issues that individuals have worried about for decades,” said Patrick Gee, senior vice president for claims at Travelers. “Many may be feeling more vulnerable to cyber risks as Americans are becoming increasingly reliant on technology in nearly every aspect of their daily lives. This may also be playing a role in consumers’ overall perception of risk with so many respondents believing the world is becoming a riskier place.”

Of the cyber risks listed as potential concerns, respondents worried the most about their bank accounts being hacked. Americans under the age of 55 are generally more likely to worry a great deal about cyber risks than those over 55.

While this Travelers survey asked consumers about their concerns, last year Travelers released results of a survey of businesses-- its Business Risk Index-- which also found cyber risk ranked third among the top worries of  leaders of businesses of all sizes. Cyber risk came in behind medical inflation and legal liabilities in the 2014 business index.

Riskier World

Other results from the new Travelers consumer survey indicate that a majority of Americans (57 percent) continue to believe the world is becoming riskier. Women, more than men, see the world becoming riskier, as do people over the age of 40.

Among business leaders surveyed last year by Travelers, 48 percent said they believe the world is growing riskier overall.

Financial security is the top concern among consumers for the third consecutive year.

Distracted driving remains a major concern of consumers. Ninety percent of respondents are concerned about getting into an accident due to someone else’s distracted driving, yet only 37 percent of respondents are concerned about getting into an accident due to their own distraction. Seventy-six percent of respondents are concerned about their children driving while distracted, up from 68 percent in 2014.

Over the past three years, a consistent two-thirds of consumer respondents have indicated that they believe severe weather is becoming more frequent in the U.S. Forty percent believe that is the case where they live. More Americans in Tornado Alley and in brushfire areas believe that the frequency of severe weather is increasing in their area compared with last year’s survey.

In the 2014 business index, 60 percent of business leaders agreed that extreme weather events are happening more frequently and 37 percent feared severe weather poses an increased risk of damage to their businesses.

Risk Management

Consumers reported taking basic steps to reduce some of the risks in their lives. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they have annual car safety checks, and 77 percent have installed carbon monoxide or smoke detectors, which is consistent with previous surveys. Storing food, water and flashlights is a common preparation tactic for respondents.

While three-quarters of American consumers say they are taking risk management steps, only about one quarter (24 percent) business decision makers said that preventing, preparing for and responding to risk is a strategic priority, according to the business survey.

Americans appear to be taking action to prepare for cyber threats as well. Seventy-eight percent of consumer respondents reported that they create strong passwords and keep them private; 76 percent limit the amount of personal information shared on the Internet and 69 percent keep their browsers updated with security features. Despite this vigilance, some protective measures may be overlooked. Fewer than half of respondents (41 percent), however, frequently change online banking/financial account passwords.

Source: Travelers