After holding steady for nearly five years, Americans expressed higher levels of anxiety about almost every security topic, including physical and online threats.
Americans are more concerned
than ever about all aspects of their personal security, online and offline, but
it's not entirely clear why, according to a recent survey from Unisys.
Approximately half of the
respondents polled were seriously concerned about viruses, spam and the safety
of online shopping, according the latest Unisys Security Index survey. The biannual
survey, released May 4, gauges consumer opinion on four areas of security: financial,
Internet, national and personal safety.
The total United States Unisys Security Index
jumped 40 points to 154, a 20 percent increase since the last survey, which was
conducted in August 2010. In contrast, the index numbers have remained
relatively stable since Unisys began doing the study twice a year in 2007. For
three years, the total index was between 145 and 151, which researchers
categorized as "moderate concern." The current index is at a level that researchers
marked as "serious concern."
While researchers were surprised
by the sudden upswing in the Security Index score, what was especially striking
was the fact that all four areas showed an increase, Patricia Titus, chief
information security officer of Unisys, told eWEEK.
"We had three stable years,
and then a dip, and then a rise to levels higher than what it's ever been
before," Titus said.
While national security
could be easily explained by current events and the ongoing military campaigns,
there wasn't a ready explanation for the increase in the health care segment,
Titus said. The overall dramatic increase can't be attributed "to any one
certain thing," Titus said.
Financial and national
security were comfortably in the "seriously concerned" territory, with
individual index scores of 174 and 176, respectively. Internet and personal
security had similar index scores, 154 and 153, respectively, and were at
"moderately concerned" levels.
The across-the-board increases
might have more to do with the fact that mobile devices have made people
"better connected," according to Titus. More and more people carry smartphones
and tablets, and many people who can't afford a full computer or laptop are
just opting for a smartphone with a data plan. Mobile devices give people the
opportunity to be connected to see what's happening in the world, and to
"ingest more information," according to Titus.
, the discovery of printer cartridge bombs, the attempted bombing in
Time Square and the unrest
in Middle East
have shifted the public attention to security over the past
year. Financial security likely increased because of concerns about inflation
and recession as well as worrying about e-commerce transactions, according to
It wasn't clear whether the
increased levels of concern would translate to any actual changes in behavior.
Titus was a little concerned about the fact that increasing numbers of people
were using mobile devices, but the industry as a whole hadn't "really thought
about security on those devices." As people use mobile devices more, they face bigger
risks, such as the recent Verizon outage making it impossible for people who
have abandoned landlines to make any phone calls, Titus said.
People don't always think
about security in relation to mobile devices because they are so used to
thinking about security in the context of a computer. "We missed the
opportunity on that one," Titus said.
People are "used" to having
services, like online games, which aren't critical, but when they aren't
available, people notice. "An awful lot of things are happening that are
getting people's attention," Titus said, such as the Amazon outage and the Sony
"Our way of life is getting
disrupted by cyber-security attacks," Titus said.
Titus expressed interest in
conducting the survey in the aftermath of the operation that killed Osama
to see how the index scores would look "right now."
The index was calculated
based on random telephone surveys of 1,005 people in mid-February; the
Lieberman Research Group conducted the poll.