Cybersecurity is a hot topic, as it should be. With growing amounts of personal data being stored online, we should all be taking security of our online presence seriously. It seems, however, that while Americans do not trust modern institutions to protect their data, they are neither vigilant in their private security measures nor do they consider cybersecurity a top worry.
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately half of all Americans do not trust public or private institutions, including the federal government and social media sites, to protect their data. This mistrust is not entirely unfounded. The survey done by the center revealed that 64% of adults in the US have been impacted by a major data breach.
Data breaches include fraudulent charges on credit cards, sensitive information (like account numbers) being compromised, email or social media accounts being taken over, attempts at taking out loans or lines of credit in their names, and more.
Fourteen percent of adults in US reported having received notices that their Social Security number had been compromised.
Nearly half of all Americans also reported feeling that their personal information is less secure than it was five years ago. Only 18% feel that their information has gotten more secure in recent years.
Unfortunately, while cyber crimes are a concern and risk to personal data security, far too many Americans are failing to follow secure practices online.
Only 12% of internet users report ever using password management software, and among those, only 3% say they rely on this password technique most. In fact, 65% of users say their primary method to remember passwords is simply to memorize them in their heads. Another 18% say they primarily write down their passwords on a piece of paper.
Moreover, 41% of adults have shared the password to one of their online accounts with a friend or family member and 39% say they use the same or very similar passwords for many of their online accounts.
And a full quarter of adults say they use passwords that are less secure than they’d like. Their explanation? They need to remember the passwords, so they can’t be too complex.
The statistics don’t look any better on mobile devices. Twenty-eight percent of smartphone owners say that they do not use security features such as a screen lock to access their phone and 54% of adults report using public Wi-Fi networks that may not be secure. Among those 54%, one-in-five users reported using those networks to perform sensitive activities such as online banking.
Given the attitude towards cybersecurity, it’s no wonder Americans are so lax about personal online security. Americans simply don’t worry much about the issue. Even Americans who have been the victim of data breaches are generally no more likely than the average American to take any additional cybersecurity measures.
The fact is, complacency regarding cybersecurity is a risk and there are simple measures to take that can vastly improve the security of your online presence. We wouldn’t trust a bank that simply memorized our information or that didn’t have proper security measures surrounding it’s vaults where our money and safety-deposit boxes are kept, so why shouldn’t we demand the same security online, both of ourselves and of the institutions that keep our information?
As we allow more of our personal information online, we must stay vigilant about personal, corporate, and government cybersecurity measures.