Americans Overestimating Their Cyber Hygiene Levels: Report

Americans Overestimating Their Cyber Hygiene Levels

As per a recent report, Americans tend to overestimate their levels of cyber hygiene and hence are overconfident when it comes to cybersecurity.

The report, titled ‘Cyber Hygiene Risk Index’, which has been commissioned by Webroot and published by Wakefield Research, reiterates on the fact that this overconfidence is despite Americans lacking the basic knowledge needed to protect themselves from cyberthreats.

As per the report, 88 percent of Americans think that the steps they are taking to protect themselves from cyberattacks are sufficient. It explains that though they can recognize the names of common cyberattacks, like malware or phishing, they don’t know much about these attacks.

The Cyber Hygiene Risk Index report says, “Americans are overconfident in the perceived protection they’re getting now. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) feel that they are currently taking the appropriate steps to protect themselves from cyber-related attacks, but this confidence is misplaced. Instead, Americans have only a surface-level understanding of the most common types of cyber threats. They can recognize some of the names of the most common cyber-attacks such as malware (79%) or phishing (70%), but for most, that’s where their knowledge ends. Very few (less than 1 in 3) actually know what theses common cyber-attacks are or what they do.”

The survey report points out that such poor levels of cyber hygiene are realized country-wide, with only 10% of the total population scoring a 90% or higher. The average American consumer scored 60 percent and the riskiest states (states in which consumers face the greatest risks from cyberattacks) are Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Alaska, and Connecticut. The least risky states are New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Idaho, and Kentucky.

The report reads, “Scores among American consumers ranged from 100% (A+) to 0% (F). However, the average consumer scored a grade of 60%, with only 10% of the total population scoring a 90% or higher (Grade A). Mississippi and New Hampshire headline our riskiest and least risky states, respectively. And while there is some slight variation in risk levels state to state, our highest performing state (New Hampshire) only scored a 65% (D Grade).”

Less than half of Americans adopt cybersecurity practices that could be considered the bare minimum for self-protection as per today’s standards. The notable thing is that many among those who adopt good cyber hygiene practices are not doing so effectively. Less than half of Americans refrain from reusing passwords across multiple accounts (37%) or make sure that their social media accounts are private (36%). 47 percent even don’t ensure that they are not falling victim to phishing scams. Many of those who adopt cybersecurity practices like backing up their data or using anti-virus software don’t do so properly. By backing up their data using only one method or by allowing their antivirus software to become outdated, they leave themselves susceptible to cybersecurity risks.

An interesting thing that the Cyber Hygiene Risk Index report reveals is that in every state in the U.S, there does exist a group of ‘Cyber Hygiene Superstars’ who go “above and beyond” and reflect only 5 percent of Americans today. They score high when it comes to adopting cybersecurity practices and take additional steps to protect themselves from cybersecurity risks. They back up their data using multiple methods, use paid antivirus software and keep the same updated and also use effective tools like personal VPNs and password managers for additional security.

The report points out, “There is opportunity to use these Superstars as the new blueprint for which every U.S. consumer needs to aspire to. And only when someone adopts the behaviors of these Superstars, are they really practicing the cyber hygiene required to keep them safe today.”

The report points out that compared to the overall population, these “Superstars” are more likely to be Boomers and are also more likely to be married or in a relationship. More likely to be living in the suburbs, they are less likely to be parents.

Notable findings in the report regarding cyber hygiene behaviors of the Americans-

  • Few Americans are properly backing up their important information.
  • Many Americans upload information to the cloud unprotected.
  • Many Americans are losing their devices or giving them away without clearing the memory.
  • Many Americans fall victim to identity theft.
  • Americans adopting the use of antivirus software to protect themselves, but most don’t keep them up to date.
  • Most Americans are using less secure, free software services.
  • Phishing attacks are still claiming victims of many naive Americans.
  • Many Americans share their passwords with others.
  • Many Americans use public Wi-Fi while unprotected.
  • Many Americans don’t make their social media accounts private.
  • Most Americans are not regularly practicing habits that are critical to protection online.

Related Resources:

Business Intelligence is the Key to Stronger Cybersecurity – Here’s Why

Artificial Intelligence’s Deep Learning, A New Cybersecurity Tool?

Year-in-Review: Cybersecurity Trends of 2018

Digital Media Security Against Corporate Cybersecurity Culture

Julia Sowells861 Posts

Julia Sowells has been a technology and security professional. For a decade of experience in technology, she has worked on dozens of large-scale enterprise security projects, and even writing technical articles and has worked as a technical editor for Rural Press Magazine. She now lives and works in New York, where she maintains her own consulting firm with her role as security consultant while continuing to write for Hacker Combat in her limited spare time.

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