Users Finally Waking Up to Cybercrime... Maybe

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-11-04 Print this article Print

On a day of endless polling, here's one that you might find even more interesting than all the political postulating. Well, maybe not, but it's probably worth noting anyways...

In case you missed it, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a consumer security collaborative spanning the non-profit, academic, government and industry sectors, published a pretty remarkable study about Americans' perception of cybercrime.

According to the report, which the oft-referenced Zogby recently conducted online with over 3,000 U.S. residents, Americans may in fact finally be adjusting their computing habits based on their knowledge of hacks, cracks and malware attacks.

And let's face it, beyond selling people technologies that help protect them from attack this has been the elephant in the room with IT security, that is, raising consumer awareness, specifically in regards to the Web world.

Based on Zogby's poll, "nearly 60 percent of Americans say that the risks of identity theft have changed their online behaviors," NCSA claims.

Additionally, over 40 percent of those polled reported that they only visit familiar Web sites, and another 20 percent said they've curtailed their e-commerce buying based on their cyber-security concerns.

This is pretty cool, though, too bad about the e-commerce thing, but really that has to be expected as much as the credit card industry has stepped up to eat a lot of the losses. For the biggest fear among consumers remains identity theft -- and apparently not without good reason.

According to the poll, a remarkable 22 percent of those surveyed said that they have had their "identity misused" to compromise a bank account, steal a credit card number or take out an unauthorized loan.

I mean, that's over 600 people among 3,000, which is a pretty staggeringly high proportion.

But, I guess it proves out the fact that many people will only learn by enduring cybercrime hardships on their own.

In general, over 73 percent of those surveyed said they regularly use the Net to bank, trade stocks or review personal medical information. So, risks would appear to remain pretty high, even as many people have become more security aware.

On the downside, some 53 percent of those polled said that they use the same password for multiple services. Bad call there.

And here's one result that I can't figure out at all, when those polled were asked if having their bank account or credit card account robbed of $5,000 was worse than having their home broken into and robbed of $5,000, 51 percent said that online fraud was worse.

What's more, only 37 percent said that they considered the physical breach more unnerving than the cyber attack, with 12 percent unsure.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd sure rather have my identity stolen than have someone invade the confines of my physical residence, but, I suppose it does add to the theory that people are putting more weight on issues of cyber security.

"The convenience of conducting part of our lives online has transformed the way we live, but it's not without risk," Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA, said in a report summary. "Only visiting Web sites that you trust is one aspect of good online security. In addition, home users should be vigilant about keeping their anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall up-to-date and use unique passwords that contain numbers, letters and symbols. These tools combined with good online behavior equal good cyber security."

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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