Malware Attacks Target People With Low Impulse Control

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Malware Attacks Target People With Low Impulse Control

People with low self-control can fall victims to Trojans, viruses and malwares / Photo by Ton Snoei via 123RF


Having self-control could mean different things for every individual. For instance, this could mean declining an offer of pizza to stay true to your weight-loss regimen, overcoming the temptation to approach an attractive stranger, deciding not to buy a beautiful dress, or saying no to a night of partying with friends because you have classes the next day. All of these are examples of typical situations where self-control is required.

According to Psychology Today, self-control is the ability to subdue our impulses, emotions, and behavior in order to achieve long-term goals. It's about the discernment people show in identifying between a need and a want. However, not all people can do these things and actually end up making impulsive decisions. Have you ever thought about the millions of smokers around the globe? Why, despite the clear link between smoking and lung cancer, would they still choose to puff their cigars? Why do other people decide to drive after they've had too many cocktails, knowing the danger they pose to others on the road?

Low Impulse Control Linked with Cybercrime

Previous studies have shown that people with low impulse control engage in riskier behavior than those with higher self-control. In a study conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the University of Hong Kong, it was found that those individuals with low self-control focus more on the probability and pay less heed to the consequences.

The research led by former Stanford GSB graduate student Ab Litt, University of Hong Kong’s Jayson S. Jia, and Stanford GSB associate professor of marketing Uzma Khan described how people perceive risk in two primary ways. First, the probability that something bad will happen. Second, the consequences of those negative outcomes.

To prove this, the researchers gathered participants and gave them tests about their health. The findings showed that people with high impulse control tend to acknowledge more of the consequences and less the probability of the risky outcome. “Because they feel more in control, they think that outside odds don’t apply to them. Their behavior is, therefore, determined disproportionately by the consequence of the outcomes, such as the potential profits," Khan explained.

Additionally, a recent study from Michigan State University examined how those with low self-control can fall victim to cybercrime involving Trojans, viruses, and malware. Tomas Holt, the lead author of the research and a professor of criminal justice, said, "People who show signs of low self-control are the ones we found more susceptible to malware attacks. An individual's characteristics are critical in studying how cybercrime perseveres, particularly the person's impulsiveness and the activities that they engage in while online that have the greatest impact on their risk."

According to Science Daily, Holt also explained that low impulse control comes in many forms such as negligence, physical versus verbal behavior, short-sightedness, and an inability to delay gratification. Self-control has also been connected to committing crimes. The researchers found a link between low impulse control and victimization, putting people in situations where they could break the law.

Published in the Social Science Computer Review, the study examined the self-control of over 6,000 participants and analyzed their computers' ability to indicate malware and infection. The researchers asked their participants a series of questions about how they might react in different situations. For instance, they asked the participants whether their computers processed slowly, crashed, had a homepage changing on their web browser, and had unexpected pop-ups.

Holt explained that online media is a platform where people with low impulse control get what they want, from pirated movies to deals on consumer goods. This is why hackers and cybercriminals have long targeted these kinds of people. In fighting cybercrime, there should be a clear understanding of the psychological side of self-control and the types of people whose computers become infected with malware.

Moreover, Holt hopes that people think holistically about fighting cybercrime, stepping aside the silos between the computer and social sciences. "If we can identify risk factors, we can work in tandem with technical fields to develop strategies that then reduce the risk factors for infection. It's a pernicious issue we're facing, so if we can attack from both fronts, we can pinpoint the risk factors and technical strategies to find solutions that improve protection for everyone," he added.

The Value of Impulse Control

People have long been troubled by the risks of having low self-control. It's important that we realize its value and start practicing it to prevent negative outcomes in the future. For instance, self-control increases people's decision-making capacity. It would become easier for us to make decisions, because our minds switch to simpler processes. People who are known to have strong impulse control are more likely to be successful. They are able to cope with their problems easier than others.

Also, impulse control can help people prevent impulsive behavior such as lying and binge-drinking. It would also improve a person's focus, allowing them to not be easily distracted by negative thoughts.


People with low impulse control are mostly targeted by hackers and cybercriminals / Photo by




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