Online Safety is a Priority for Americans: Survey

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that their personal online actions can help make the greater online world safer for everyone, including their friends, family, country, and the larger global community of Internet users.

This is revealed by a national survey of U.S. adults released Tuesday (Aug. 10) by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG).  The survey was conducted as part of a public-private messaging convention established to develop cybersecurity-related messaging for the general public.

Ninety-six percent of Americans feel a personal responsibility to be safer and more secure online, while 93 percent said that their online actions can protect not only friends and family, but also help to make the Web safer for everyone around the world. 

The study also revealed the need for simple, easy-to-understand, actionable resources and tips to help ensure their safety and security online. Access to this type of information would equip and empower them to make more-informed decisions – even before they go online, the poll revealed.

The survey, conducted by Heart + Mind Strategies for NCSA and APWG, will inform the future work of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign.

The messaging convention, driven by NCSA and APWG, includes: ADP; AVG; Costco; ESET; Facebook; Google; Intel; Intuit; McAfee; Microsoft; PayPal; RSA, The Security Division of EMC; Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC); Symantec; Trend Micro; Verizon Communications; VeriSign; Visa; Walmart; Yahoo!; the U.S. Department of Commerce; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice; the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign is slated for launch in October during National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

“It is heartening to see that Americans feel just as great a personal responsibility to online safety and security as they do a global responsibility,” said NCSA executive director, Michael Kaiser.

“Just as they might view protecting the environment a local and global priority, Americans feel that doing their part to help keep the Internet safe benefits not only their own household but also our national and economic security.”

Americans feel most vulnerable about the loss or theft of their personal or financial information. Fifty-four percent of Americans said the prospect of losing this data “extremely concerned” them (based on a rating of eight or higher on a 10-point scale). 

Losing personal or financial information ranked similar to concern over job loss (53 percent) and not being able to provide healthcare for their family (51 percent).

In terms of specific risks within the online threat landscape, identity theft ranked as the chief fear. Nearly a third of Americans (31 percent) reported identity theft as their greatest concern to personal safety and security on the Internet.

The fear of someone hacking into their financial information or accounts ranked a close second, with a quarter of Americans listing it as their greatest worry.

Overall, Americans feel safest online when they are taking independent action for their own Internet security.  Sixty-one percent believe that much of online safety and security falls under their personal control, and consistent with those feelings, 90 percent said they want to learn more about keeping safer on the Internet.

When asked why they don’t always do all the things they can or should do to stay safer online, most Americans said they simply lacked the information or knowledge (28 percent).  Only 12 percent said online safety was too expensive, while just 5 percent said they were too busy to take the extra step.

Heart + Mind Strategies conducted the national survey online with 1,007 U.S. adults ages 18 and up between May 21-25, 2010. The poll was part of an extensive analysis on online behaviors and attitudes for NCSA and APWG.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) is a nonprofit organization. It works to create a culture of cyber security and safety through education and awareness activities. 

The APWG, founded in 2003 as the Anti-Phishing Working Group, is a global industry, law enforcement, and government coalition focused on eliminating the identity theft and fraud that result from the growing problem of phishing, email spoofing, and crimeware.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman