Social Media Users Fail to Protect Their Privacy: ESET

Almost three in 10 social media users said their social media accounts had been hacked, and for more than half, the hacking occurred this year.

While almost two-thirds of respondents appeared to embrace individual responsibility, more than half of U.S. adult social network users say they have not read the most recent privacy policy for their social media accounts, according to a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults commissioned by security firm ESET and conducted by Harris Interactive.

More than a quarter (28 percent) said that they were up-to-date with all of their privacy policies, 12 percent said they were up-to-date for some and just 9 percent said they were up to date on most.

Sixty-four percent of respondents admitted that protecting their privacy online was a personal responsibility, while just 17 percent said it was up to their Internet service provider (ISP), 12 percent said it was the responsibility of social networks themselves, and a paltry 3 percent said it should be up to regulators.

The Harris survey turned up another indicator of a possible disconnect between widespread acceptance of individual responsibility for online safety and actual behavior, with results indicating that roughly one in five people have never changed the privacy settings on their social media accounts.

"Lack of attention to privacy and security on social media does seem to be at odds with the belief in individual responsibility. This is even more surprising when you consider the negative experiences of more than a few users," Stephen Cobb, the report's author, wrote in a blog post. "It is hard to think that everyone who leaves the default settings in place is aware of the implications."

A whopping 91 percent of respondents reported receiving at least one suspicious electronic message this year, and 86 percent of U.S. adults expressed concern about viruses or hackers when visiting their favorite Websites. However, only 35 percent of respondents felt that Websites do a good job of screening or filtering out malicious code.

A more encouraging finding was that a third of respondents with social media accounts had flagged a suspicious item or message to an administrator, and some people are clearly reaching out to friends when they see problems. For example, 30 percent of people whose social media accounts had been hacked were notified by friends.

Almost three in 10 (28 percent of) social media users said that one or more of their social media accounts had been hacked, and for more than half of those people, the hacking had occurred this year. Worryingly, just 27 percent of social media users had received any online safety training.

"In other words, almost three quarters of the people out there using social media are self-taught when it comes to sensible behavior online. Given the level of threat activity reported to us, that 27 percent is a scary number," Cobb continued. "It should also scare employers because a lot of people in the labor pool lack formal training in security knowledge and awareness."