network security researchA survey of online security habits commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security shows that Americans open their devices to unknown entities, download files of unknown origin at high rates, and even ignore best practices when they know they should do otherwise.”

Recent cyber attacks, in which hackers gained access to private customer information by hacking into the websites of big-box retailers, highlight the need for people to take greater care when online, highlighted Adam Benson, Digital Citizens Alliance’s deputy executive director.

“The hackings of Home Depot, Target, and other large retailers may be lulling Americans into thinking that it’s big corporations that are rogue operators’ prime targets, but that’s a mistake. Hackers want personal data – credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers. They’ll look for open windows – and the online behavior we see reflected in this survey tells us that millions of Americans are leaving the windows open, the doors unlocked, and even giving some hackers the key to get in.”

Added Blackfin Security CEO and co-founder Josh Larsen, “There may not be a lot that we as individuals can do to stop the next data breach of a large corporation, but there is definitely room for improvement in how we handle our personal data. As we become more connected in nearly every facet of our lives, we have to take more precautions and be aware that nearly every connection we make online presents an opportunity for opportunistic cyber criminals to take advantage.”

Key findings of the Zogby Analytics poll include:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans don’t change their passwords enough – going as long as a year without updating them;
  • More than one-third use public WiFi that doesn’t require a password sometimes or even “always”;
  • 16 percent said that using two-factor authentication (which requires the user to have two types of credentials before being able to access an account) makes signing on too much of a burden, while another 23 percent didn’t know what two-factor authentication is;
  • 62 percent said they didn’t always check or weren’t sure if their downloaded movies, music, games, or books were legally authorized. Previous Digital Citizens Alliance research has shown this is a widely used delivery mechanism for malware;
  • More than 35 percent of all Americans like/follow/connect with people they barely know or don’t know on social media. While that can often be with a celebrity or influential figure, in some cases, people might be connecting with someone more interested in your habits than they are in your safety.

As part of National Cyber Security Assessment Month, Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security created an online quiz that anyone can take to evaluate the security of their online habits. The Personal Threat Assessment is available here.

Commented Benson, “Our quiz includes both the poll numbers and short videos from Blackfin that provide explanations to users about why they should take extra steps. Security isn’t easy. Hackers have hit the wealthy, the powerful, and the brilliant. There isn’t a magic bullet, but small steps could deter hackers from hitting you and your computer. This quiz is designed just to get people thinking about what more they can do.”

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