US residents failing at basic cyber security, research finds

A new study named Webroot’s Cyber Hygiene Test has concluded that Americans aren’t taking cyber security seriously enough, after results awarded most of the country’s residents a score of 60% and a rating of ‘D’.

Among the lowest-scoring states were Mississippi, Louisiana and California, on a survey of 200 US adults from each state, coming to a total number of 10,000 respondents.

The survey, which was conducted in February of this year, concluded that US citizens are “overconfident” when it comes to their approach to security and privacy online. Almost 90% of those involved stated that they felt they are getting cyber protection right, when just 10% have an attitude that would be deemed satisfactory in today’s digital climate.

Citizens were polled on the care they take to safeguard their own behaviours online, such as whether they use antivirus software, conduct regular data backups, or take measures to keep their social media accounts confidential.

Respondents were asked if they share passwords with other people, whether they use the same password for multiple accounts, and if they are happy to hook up to public WiFi without a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Those studied were also invited to say whether they had been the victim of identity theft, malware or phishing campaigns in the past 12 months.

Taking all answers into account, Webroot researchers attributed respondents with a grade from zero to 100%, with the average reading coming back as 60%, or a rating of ‘D’.

While Mississippi, Louisiana and California ranked lowest of all states polled, even New Hampshire – the highest-ranked state – scored just 65%, leading the researchers to conclude that Americans need to wake up to the importance of cyber security.

The study also found that while most respondents had heard of phishing and malware, not many could describe what each was.

Webroot’s senior threat research analyst, Tyler Moffitt, said:

“Good cyber hygiene doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple steps like backing up data, using a modern antivirus, and not recycling passwords are quick and easy ways consumers can improve their security.

“In today’s digital world, no one is immune to cybercrime, and having the awareness and tools necessary to protect yourself is key in keeping personal information secure.”


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