When ​all is said and done, 2018 could very well be remembered as​ "The Year of Data Hacking."

We're not even one-third of the way through this year and we've already seen Facebook Founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify on Capitol Hill regarding Cambridge Analytica getting their hands on 87 million Facebook users' private data, in addition to 800,000 payment cards getting breached via travel website Orbitz, and 5 million customers of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor having their credit or debit card data stolen.

And for good measure, news reports continue​ to ​surface regarding Russia's meddling in U.S. elections and the cybersecurity threat posed by China. ​Even though 2017 ​saw the colossal breach at Equifax​, in which 143 million Americans ha​d their sensitive data exposed, ​2018 is ​aiming to top it.

As more of our data is stored within the "internet of things," data breaches involving our personal data, financial data, or our national security will continue to pose a​ ​major threat.

On the topic of threats, The Student Loan Report understands the potential problems posed by this country's outstanding student loan debt total of $1.41 trillion. While still a long way from causing widespread financial ruin, student loan debt is now the second largest class of consumer debt, shows no signs of slowing down, and could spell trouble for younger generations.

So what do Americans think is the bigger threat to this country: the national student loan debt or the ever-increasing problem of sensitive data getting stolen?

Student Debtors More Concerned Over Repaying Their Debt Rather Than Their Data Getting Hacked

1. Are you more concerned about repaying your student loan debt or getting your financial data hacked (i.e. credit card information) in a similar scenario to the recent breaches of Orbitz and Lord & Taylor?

2. Are you more concerned about repaying your student loan debt or getting your personal data hacked through Facebook or another website you use?

While this survey was administered to 1,000 adult Americans from the general population, 301 (30.1%) of those surveyed currently had student loan debt at the time of the survey. 

This group of poll participants were asked the two questions found above. In both instances, the majority of student debtors were more concerned about repaying their student loan debt than either getting their financial or personal data hacked. 

Interestingly, student debtors ​were more concerned ​about their personal data getting breached through a site like Facebook when compared to their financial information getting stolen in an instance like the Orbitz credit card hack. This ​​might be due to the heavy media coverage of Facebook's dealings​, keeping consumers' minds focused on it.

Whatever the ​reason, student loan debt is obviously a ​legitimate ​​source of stress and worry, because consumers are more concerned about ​repaying their student loans than having their data ​stolen in a breach – ​which ​can have troubling ramifications.

For the Average American, Worry Over Data Breaches Takes Precedent ​Over U.S. Student Debt 

3. Which do you think is a bigger threat to the United States: the national student loan debt of $1.41 trillion or personal data getting hacked through Facebook or another website?

4. Which do you think is a bigger threat to the United States: the national student loan debt of $1.41 trillion or international cybersecurity hacks by foreign actors like China or Russia?

5. Which do you think is a bigger threat to the United States: the national student loan debt of $1.41 trillion or financial data getting hacked (i.e. credit card information) in a similar scenario to the recent breaches of Orbitz and Lord & Taylor?

For the three questions above, the results were broken down into two groups of poll participants: all 1,000 respondents and the 301 respondents with student loan debt.

As one would expect, the only-student debtor group was much more inclined to think the national student loan debt total of $1.41 trillion was a bigger threat to the U.S. when compared to the three options provided. In fact, the student loan debtors thought $1.41 trillion worth of outstanding student loan debt was a bigger threat than personal data getting breached through Facebook. They also nearly found the student loan debt total to be more grave to the U.S. than financial data getting stolen, as the percentage point difference was only 3.64. 

The widest disparity among student loan debtors pertained to international cybersecurity hacks by foreign actors like China or Russia. 45.51 percent of student debtors thought this was a bigger threat to the safety of the U.S. compared to the 35.88 percent of respondents who thought the national student loan debt total was still a bigger concern. 

In terms of all 1,000 survey participants, the numbers were different compared to the only-student debtors group, but the patterns were the same. International cybersecurity breaches were perceived as the biggest threat, followed by financial data getting hacked, while personal data getting accessed was seen as the least concerning issue. 

Clearly, folks in the U.S. are concerned ​about foreign hacking​, and this is probably due to the amount of media coverage ​about Russian meddling in U.S. elections. When something as sacred as democratic elections is thought to be tampered with, people ​tend to be very worried about it. The fact that the national student loan debt was thought to be a more serious threat to the U.S. by nearly 17 percent of participants was a bit surprising, and shows how the amount of outstanding student loan debt in this country is quite serious. 

On the other hand, people must not be that distraught over personal data getting breached through websites like Facebook because that was a very narrow result. 28 percent of respondents thought the country's student loan debt was more serious, while 42.6 percent opted for personal data getting hacked, and 29.4 percent either thought neither was a threat or both posed about the same threat level.

​Personal data getting breached took a backseat to financial data getting stolen, as 55.6 percent of survey takers saw this as a bigger threat than the U.S. student loan debt total. This was a bit of a surprise because, as mentioned earlier, the Facebook story ​is getting much more ​news coverage than the stories ​about the Orbitz and Lord & Taylor breaches.

In the end, the threat posed by the nation's ​outstanding student loan debt more than held its own in this survey. As student loan debt continues to grow ​every year, more and more people are taking notice of the potential problems, both economic and social, that could arise from that debt. 

Methodology 

OnePoll, an online survey company, ran this poll on behalf of The Student Loan Report. 1,000 adult Americans were asked the questions found within this report. Of those 1,000 Americans, 301 of them had student loan debt at the time of taking the survey, which allowed us to break out the results. This survey was run over a four-day period, with April 13, 2018, being the start date and April 16, 2018, being the end date.