Survey Shows Americans Have a Poor Understanding of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity awareness is crucial, as one wrong click can lead to a whole network being compromised. A lot of people seem to not have a great understanding of cybersecurity, as a new study found out. The problem however isn’t misinformation, but the lack of information.

A lack of understanding

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center titled “What the Public Knows about Cybersecurity” found that most Americans are uninformed when it comes to online security. Over one thousand adults were surveyed last year, and the responses show most recognize a need for strong passwords, but don’t recognize an email or website phishing scheme. Most were also unable to determine whether they were entering their own credit card information in an encrypted website or not.

The survey was made out of 13 cybersecurity questions. The median score was five correct answers, as a mere 20% of respondents managed to get eight questions right. The majority did not get the other answers wrong, however, what they did was check the “not sure” option.

Participants thoroughly understood some basic security practices, but showed a poor understanding of more advanced practices, such as the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Stephen Cobb, security researcher for anti-virus software firm ESET, told

“One of the things you see from the Pew study, as you drill down in security knowledge, the numbers really do drop off. I was disappointed that only 33 percent were aware of what the ‘s’ in ‘https’ meant”

Phishing attacks, an extremely powerful weapon in a cybercriminal’s arsenal, were identified by only 54% of respondents. According to Cobb, antivirus software does a good job at blocking most of these attack, but technology can’t yet provide users an automated response to the threat.

Therefore, there’s still a lot of work ahead of professionals when it comes to public awareness. Cybercrime is a very lucrative business, and educating users seems to be, for now, the only way to prevent hackers from getting paid absurd amounts of money. According to Business Insider, some ransomware extortionists, for example, are able to make $7,500 a month.

Other findings

The survey found that 75% of respondents were able to identify the most secure password out of a small list of options, and that 52% knew that turning off the GPS function does not prevent smartphones from being tracked, as this can also be done via cell towers or Wi-Fi networks.

Only 10%, however, were able to identify a multi-factor authentication example, and only 1% of participants managed to answer every question in the survey correctly.

Recently, cybersecurity firm Symantec published a report that states ransomware extortionists keep increasing the ransom they force victims to pay, as they are figuring out how far they can go. Raising public awareness will inevitably help prevent numerous cases, especially taking into account some use ransomware kits that rely on the numbers game and require no technical knowledge.

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