"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," said lead author Tomas Holt, Professor at Michigan State University.
The research team said that low self-control comes in many forms. This type of person shows signs of short-sightedness, negligence, physical versus verbal behaviour and an inability to delay gratification.
‘Hackers and cybercriminals know that people with low self-control are the ones who will be scouring the Internet for what they want -- or think they want -- which is how they know what sites, files or methods to attack.’
For the study, published in the journal Social Science Computer Review, the team assessed the self-control of nearly 6,000 survey participants, as well as their computers' behaviour that could indicate malware and infection.
To measure victimisation, they asked participants a series of questions about how they might react in certain situations.
For computer behaviour, they asked about their computer having slower processing, crashing, unexpected pop-ups and the homepage changing on their web browser.
"Self-control is an idea that's been looked at heavily in criminology in terms of its connection to committing crimes," Holt said.
"But we find a correlation between low self-control and victimization; people with this trait put themselves in situations where they are near others who are motivated to break the law," Holt added.
Understanding the psychological side of self-control and the types of people whose computers become infected with malware -- and who likely spread it to others -- is critical in fighting cybercrime, the researcher noted.