New Research shows some worrying trends in US online security perceptions

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New research has revealed that, despite being aware of an increased threat of cyber-attacks, most Americans don’t believe they are at risk personally.

A new study by ReportLinker has revealed some very concerning perspectives on cyber-security from the US population. They survey asked a cross-section of the US population a series of questions and it revealed that even though most were aware that there was an increased risk of cyber-attack, most still though they were not at risk personally.

This might seem on the face of it to be both confused and contradictory, but actually if you dig a little deeper, there is a perverse logic behind the thinking.

First, the headline figures. The survey showed that two-thirds of those surveyed agreed with the statement that the threat posed by cyber-attacks was higher now than five years ago.

However, 55% also said they felt that their own data was safe from hackers. Why was this? Well, it all boils down to how people become aware of cyber attacks.

Primarily it is still through the headlines of the national news, and here the focus is only even on the big security breaches. What this means is that most people are only aware of the sort of cyber-attacks which companies like Yahoo! Or Sony have fallen victim to.

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It is therefore not unreasonable for many of those people to think that cyber attacks are primarily aimed at big corporate entities, or maybe governments, and not individuals such as themselves. The survey went on to support this analysis.

It found that 36% of respondents thought that cyber-criminals only attacked government bodies, while 46% of 45-54-year-olds and 39% of those aged over 65 thought big business and corporations was the main focus. The survey also asked people about the types of devices they thought might be at risk from cyber attacks.

Only 31% of people felt Internet of Things (IoT) devices might be vulnerable, despite the fact that many devices in this rapidly growing market have little or no security built into them. In contrast to this, 42% of respondents thought that smartphones were the most vulnerable device, while 46% opted for laptops and desktop computers.

It then went on to ask about the passwords people used, and the same worrying password trends began to rear their head again.. The two most popular passwords amongst US citizens are, for the fifth successive year, ‘123456’ and ‘password’.


This is despite the fact that experts have repeatedly stressed the need for strong, hard-to-decipher passwords. Evidently this message is still not getting through to the majority of US citizens clearly enough.

Moving on to look at the use of encryption as a security and privacy tool, there was a glimmer of encouragement. 58% of respondents said they did use some sort of encryption or privacy software. However, the majority of those asked were referring to basic steps like using strong passwords or locking their smartphones.

This is of course a start, but in this day and age a VPN and other security software is what is needed to keep your device and your data safe.

What these figures should serve to do is highlight the need for the IT security sector, and the IT industry at large, to do a lot more to educate people in the US about the risks of cyber attacks and the simple steps they should be taking to protect themselves.

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