A large majority of consumers in the UK express worries that their personal information may fall into the hands of criminals as the result of data breaches, with more than four-fifths of Brits (81 per cent) fearing that cyber criminals could already have stolen their personal details without anyone realising.
The survey, conducted by Bit9 + Carbon Black, also found that consumers are demanding that businesses be held responsible for breaches that happen on their watch, with harsher penalties for companies that fail to meet their expectations.
Almost three-quarters of respondents (73 per cent) said the time it currently takes firms to realise they have had a data breach is unacceptable. More than nine out of ten customers (94 per cent) believe that businesses should have the ability to detect a breach within 24 hours, while 47 per cent stated this should be improved to a matter of minutes.
Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) think that any business storing sensitive information about them should keep it under constant, 24-hour surveillance to ensure that a breach can be detected as quickly as possible.
David Flower, managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, for Bit9 + Carbon Black, said public awareness of the issue of data breaches has been raised significantly due to high-profile incidents such as Target and Ashley Madison.
"Consumers feel that it's taking organisations far too long to detect a breach, if they can detect it at all, which is putting them at unnecessary risk," he added. "The demands for tougher penalties are an eye-opening indication of the way things could be headed if businesses don't sit up and take note of these concerns."
When it comes to financial penalties, some 81 per cent of respondents said that customers who have had their information compromised should be compensated. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of people said organisations should face fines, with 40 per cent of these saying such sanctions should be unlimited.
Seven per cent of consumers even called for individuals within enterprises to be held personally responsible for failures, with security heads facing the possibility of jail for serious breaches.