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Cybersecurity IQ: Americans Receive Mixed Results

Cybersecurity IQ: Americans Receive Mixed Results

When it comes to cybersecurity, Americans recognize the need for strong passwords and know that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t necessarily safe for online banking or e-commerce.

But U.S. adults are not as good at recognizing email “phishing” schemes or determining if the web site where they’re entering credit card information is encrypted.

That’s according to a new Pew Research Center survey titled “What the Public Knows about Cybersecurity.” It tallied responses from 1,055 adults last year about their understanding of concepts important to online safety and privacy.

The results were mixed, highlighting that public awareness of online security measures remains a potential weak link in thwarting cyberthreats.

“It is probably our No. 1 concern and No. 1 vulnerability,” said Retired Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, head of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence, a trade group for the region’s cybersecurity industry. “These attackers keep upping their game. It has gone well beyond the jumbled, everything misspelled email.”

Digital security firm Gemalto said Wednesday that 1,792 data breaches occurred worldwide in 2016, with 1.4 billion digital records compromised — up 86 percent from the prior year.

Gemalto, based in The Netherlands, did not include the 1.5 billion record exposed in the Yahoo! breach because it technically occurred in 2013-2014. It was discovered last year.

“One of the biggest problems is people have become numb to this,” said Slaght. “We all have had our credit card hacked. You just get a new one and life goes on.”

The Pew Research survey asked 13 questions about cybersecurity. The median score was five correct answers. Just 20 percent answered eight questions correctly.

A relatively large percentage of respondents, however, answered “not sure” to questions rather than providing the wrong answer.

Participants had a good understanding of some security basic practices such as the importance of strong passwords and less knowledge of others — particularly…

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