The Gap between Online Security Views and Practices

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The results of a survey released last week by the National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee indicate that there is a significant gap between Americans' knowledge of good online security practices and what they actually do.  

Despite 92% of respondents feeling that online security was crucial to the American economy, the actual security practices of respondents fall sadly short of what even those surveyed admit is ideal.

Topics covered by the survey included good security practices, data backups to aid with recovery from viruses and other loss, social networking security and cybercrime prevention.  Though many respondents showed a good knowledge of how online security should be handled, the number of individuals who actually practiced these security practices were surprisingly low.  Examples include

  • 25% of respondents claiming that they never change passwords unless prompted to do so;
  • 53% of respondents admitting to connecting to unsecured networks to access the Internet;
  • 15% of respondents claiming to have never checked their social network security settings

  • 54% of respondents reporting that they don't back up computer data regularly (with a shocking 20% stating that they never back up data at all.)

The survey also polled parents on the online habits of their children.

A full 70% of those surveyed stated that they felt their children looked to them as their primary source of information about the Internet and staying safe online.  Unfortunately, 48% of those parents also responded that they aren't confident that their children know how to stay safe on the Internet. 

Along with this, only 7% of parents reported concern over cyber bullying and how it might affect their children despite reports that as high as 33% of all children could be victimized by cyber bullies.

The results of this report are truly unsettling, especially with online threats growing every minute of every day. 

McAfee labs reported the discovery of more than a million malware infections designed to steal passwords in the first seven months of 2011 alone, and hackers have managed to breach a number of online systems ranging from video game servers to security contractor databases within the past 12 months.  Now is not the time to grow complacent about online security; good online security practices should become every much a part of our daily lives as locking the front door when we leave the house.

I sincerely hope that this report serves as a wake-up call if you can count yourself among those who have been neglecting your online security --and overlooking the importance of teaching your children about online stranger danger.

It's fun for kids to connect with others online, but they also need to understand how to protect themselves from the dangers that come with; computers, cell phones and online gaming networks. Cyber predators, bullies, scammers, hackers and professional identity thieves have discovered a whole new playground where they can stalk and interact with potential victims. If children are going to "play" on the same playground, they need to learn how to do so safely and responsibly.
Visit the National Cyber Security Alliance at to learn more about the results of this survey and to find out what you can do to improve your online security, teach your children good online security habits and keep your home and mobile networks safe from unwelcome invaders out to infiltrate your life. 
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