Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Online Americans "Are Experiencing a False Sense of Security"

This week, the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec released a major study examining the online safety perceptions and behaviors of U.S. adults. As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the study reveals most Americans feel safe using personal computers when going online but are much more wary of using mobile devices.

"It's no longer just your personal computer or laptop that's connected to the Internet,” says Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, pointing out ever increasing cyber linkages. “It's your phone, your gaming console, and even your TV.”

As a follow-up to National Cyber Security Month, the study shows most Americans say their home PC enjoys complete protection with a full-suite of security software. But not surprising to anyone who has had the singular joy of having their personal home computer hacked, those Americans are “experiencing a false sense of security.”

For the study, the real numbers showed that, of the 58 percent who claimed to have full protection, only 37 percent actually did. This was verified with an actual disk scan, with the full permission of the computer owners, of course.

But what constitutes a full-blown protection suite might not be what most people think it is. For the purposes of the study, researchers stipulate a “full security solution that includes antivirus, firewall, anti-spyware, spam filter, anti-phishing, and identity protection.”

Most Americans seem to feel somewhat safe, online, kind of: “only 24 percent… feel very safe and 61 percent feel somewhat safe that their home computers are protected.” As for mobile phone online use, 18 percent said they felt very safe and 28 percent said they felt somewhat safe.

One eye-opener in the study shows just how much Americans are embracing digital technology more and more all the time. Half of all Americans have at least two and most likely three computers at home. Three-quarters of those individuals own a laptop or a netbook as a primary computer. The TV is still in the picture as 17 percent of those questioned use it to access the Internet. Another 24 percent connect using a gaming device.

Unsecured wireless routing systems are likely the most vulnerable access points for anyone, anytime, just about anywhere. According to the study, 70 percent of Americans use a wireless router at home. A whopping 43 percent admit to logging on other wireless networks without using a password, an act that jumps to 66 percent when talking about 18-29 year olds.

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