Survey Says: Consumer Anxiety About Online Security

Does Not Translate into Action

Kevin Whalen

Throughout this month, we have shared our thoughts on the various themes aligned with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This week’s theme is “Our Continuously Connected Lives: What’s Your ‘App’-titude?” In an effort to help generate more consumer awareness around online security preparedness, Arbor commissioned a survey by Regina Corso Consulting to assess Americans’ online security aptitude. And the results are interesting, to say the least.

You can read the full summary of the key findings in our press release, but below I’ve shared some of the more interesting ones from my perspective.

The findings show that although two-thirds of Americans believe themselves to be tech savvy, their actions with regard to online security indicate otherwise – with millennials being the worst offenders. What’s more, as cyber-attacks increasingly become more mainstream (just this past month there were some astonishing cyber headlines), there is broad anxiety among Americans regarding their online security. In fact, 75% of adults are concerned about their security, privacy, malware and websites tracking them.

But what’s interesting is that this anxiety doesn’t translate into action:

  • 55% will typically click on a link in an email from someone they know, even if they weren’t expecting anything.
  • 36% don’t think twice about sharing their personal info (such as addresses, locations, birthdays, kids’ and parents’ names and vacation plans) on social media channels. Among Millennials, its 50%.
  • And if they were hacked, 55% say they wouldn’t know what to do. Among millennials its 66%.

Also, while American’s don’t appear to be taking all the steps they could to protect their personal information by following online best practices, it appears that the prevalence of cyber-attacks in the news causes Americans to hold businesses to high standards to protect their personal information. 71% say that if they hear a retail store has been a victim of a cyber security incident regarding customers’ information, they will think twice about shopping there again.

Although American may feel a loss of control over their information when it’s in the hands of businesses or the government, the reality is most people are actually more at risk to being hacked due to their own online habits. So what can consumers do, especially as we approach the most popular online shopping season of the year?

Here are some online security best practices that, if followed, will help protect the average consumer from cyber threats.

  • Update your system
  • Choose secure passwords
  • Be a little suspicious
  • Keep a backup
  • Run basic security controls
  • Apply best practice for all devices not just your PC

For more information and advice, visit the Stop. Think. Connect. webpage at the US Department of Homeland Security website.