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Digital Citizens News

New Poll: High Numbers of Americans Leave Themselves Vulnerable to Hackers

Published Friday, October 10, 2014

During Cyber Security Awareness Month, Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security Make "Personal Threat Assessment" Available to Help Americans Protect Themselves and Their Devices

Washington, DC - A new survey of Americans’ online security habits shows large numbers of Americans are putting their devices and personal information at-risk. The Zogby Analytics poll, commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security, shows Americans open devices up to unknown entities, download files of unknown origin at high rates, and even ignore best practices when they know they should do otherwise.

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security have created a Personal Threat Assessment - a series of ten questions that Americans can administer themselves to see if they are taking some basic steps to ensure their devices and data are both secure.

"The hackings of Home Depot, Target, and other large retailers may be lulling Americans into thinking that it’s big corporations that are rogue operators' prime targets, but that's a mistake," said Adam Benson, Deputy Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance. "Hackers want personal data - credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers. They'll look for open windows - and the online behavior we see reflected in this survey tells us that millions of Americans are leaving the windows open, the doors unlocked, and even giving some hackers the key to get in."

“There may not be a lot that we as individuals can do to stop the next data breach of a large corporation, but there is definitely room for improvement in how we handle our personal data,” explains Josh Larsen, co-founder and CEO of Blackfin Security. “As we become more connected in nearly every facet of our lives, we have to take more precautions and be aware that nearly every connection we make online presents an opportunity for opportunistic cyber criminals to take advantage.”

Some of the major findings from the poll include:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans don't change their passwords enough - going as long as a year without updating them;
  • More than one-third use public WiFi that doesn't require a password sometimes or even "always";
  • 16 percent said that using two-factor authentication (which requires the user to have two types of credentials before being able to access an account) makes signing on too much of a burden, while another 23 percent didn't know what two-factor authentication is;
  • 62 percent said they didn’t always check or weren’t sure if their downloaded movies, music, games, or books were legally authorized. Previous Digital Citizens Alliance research has shown this is a widely used delivery mechanism for malware;
  • More than 35 percent of all Americans like/follow/connect with people they barely know or don’t know on social media. While that can often be with a celebrity or influential figure, in some cases, people might be connecting with someone more interested in your habits than they are in your safety.

Blackfin's Marketing Manager, Megan Horner, was not surprised by some of the results. “The 16% of individuals who are indicating that enabling twofactor authentication creates a burden are validating the constant battle between convenience and security.” She adds that, “It’s our job as a security industry to inform people how simple taking these precautions can be, and of the benefits they’ll see in the long run.”

While Benson added: "These numbers show that Americans need to think a bit more about what they do online and how they go about doing it. Our quiz includes both the poll numbers and short videos from Blackfin that provide explanations to users about why they should take extra steps. Security isn't easy. Hackers have hit the wealthy, the powerful, and the brilliant. There isn't a magic bullet, but small steps could deter hackers from hitting you and your computer. This quiz is designed just to get people thinking about what more they can do."

About the Poll

Digital Citizens Alliance commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct an online survey from September 9 to September 10, 2014. 1,028 adults in the US responded to the online survey. Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error for 1,028 is +/- 3.1 percentage points. This means that all other things being equal, the identical survey repeated will have results within the margin of error 95 times out of 100.

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