Cyberattacks are an increasing problem but Americans are not that worried.
When thinking about cyberattacks and hacking, most Americans think about their passwords. The current recommendation is to have a strong password with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, characters. After creating such a complex password, the next recommendation is to change it often. This has become more common practice because cybersecurity has risen to be among the greatest threats facing the public today. With more data breaches of large retailers, corporations and political groups like Sony, Yahoo, and the Democratic National Convention, ensuring cybersecurity has become a primary agenda. However, is the public equally concerned?
A November 2016 ReportLinker survey shows that the public does recognize the problem but feel they are safe when in cyberspace. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of respondents reported that “cyberattacks are becoming more of a threat that they were 5 years ago” while only 31% reported that the threat is the same or less than five years ago. However, when asked if they feel safe from hackers, more than half reported they do.
Among those who felt safe while online, most (39%) felt somewhat safe while only 16% felt very safe. Almost half of respondents felt unsafe from hackers. Therefore, most respondents were lukewarm about their online safety while few felt definite about their security from hackers.
When asked on which device they felt the least safe, most respondents reported that they were most vulnerable on their desktop or laptop followed by their smartphone, smart device/watch and lastly on their tablet. Although the public has acknowledged that they feel vulnerable to cyberattacks, primarily on their computers, they do not believe that they are the primary targets of these attacks.
When asked who is being targeted the most in these cyber attacks, the majority reported that the government is the main target. Thirty-three percent (33%) reported that individuals are main targets and the least (31%) reported that the corporate world is the main target. The respondents’ perception that the government is the main target for attacks may contribute to them feeling less threatened by hacking.
Considering these general attitudes about cyberthreats, among the greatest threats to security are data stored online where privacy becomes an increasing concern. About a quarter of the respondents do not use any cloud storage or file sharing program. However, 75% use cloud storage applications like Google Drive, iCloud Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Americans are taking steps to increase their privacy but it may not be enough. Respondents were asked if they use encryption or privacy tools to stay safe on their connected devices. Only 58% reported ‘yes’ while the rest reported that they did not use any tools to keep their devices safe.
Among those who did use encryption or privacy protection tools, the most commonly used methods were strong passwords, locked phone, software updates, phishing scams, different passwords , public computers/Wi-Fi, app permissions, trustworthy USB keys, two-factor authentication, HTTPS-encrypted websites and encrypted texting/calling.
The least number of respondents reported using some of the best encryption methods. Therefore, either the public does not believe that they threat is as real on their devices or there is a general lack of awareness of the types of privacy methods that can be used to remain safe while roaming through cyberspace. Americans must have more information as to how to protect themselves from cyberattacks.