In case you missed the memo, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness month. Let’s face it: cybersecurity awareness is a little overshadowed by Halloween and pumpkin spice. But according to new research, cybersecurity is far scarier to most Americans than any haunted house you’ll visit next week.
A survey from CivicScience found that 91% of respondents were concerned about cybersecurity, and a little more than half were “very concerned” (2,282 U.S. adults). Only 5% were not at all concerned and 4% weren’t sure how they felt.
Basically, most of us are worried about cybersecurity. Considering that the past few years have been dotted by security breaches of major financial companies (Capital One and Equifax), it’s safe to say we’re not living in the most secure version of hyperreality.
Being concerned is one thing, yet taking preventative measures is another. Who is actually putting these measures into practice? CivicScience looked at usage and adoption of a few older and newer types of security measures.
First, awareness is high when it comes to digital security software such as Symantec, McAfee, and Avast that detects malware and phishing bugs.
Ninety percent of survey respondents age 13+ are familiar with the software — yet usage is more mixed. Nearly 70% of respondents have used one of the aforementioned security programs before, and 50% liked it.
However, usage of the software varies greatly depending on whether or not someone uses a Mac or a PC.
Apple computers have long been thought of as more resistant to malware and bugs than PCs, and Mac users are about a third less likely to use the software compared to PC users.
Next, the study looked at password managers such as 1Password and Bitwarden.
Despite multifactor authentication, password reuse is a key aspect of exploitation for hackers and newer technologies aim to improve password security through managing your passwords.
The survey reveals low adoption rates of the technology — just 12% have used them, while only 8% used them and like them, and 44% have no interest in using them.
Yet at the same time, over one-third of the survey population has never heard of password managers.
The low awareness rate of password management technology further adds to lackluster results published in a recent Pew study that gauged cybersecurity knowledge among Americans.
Age plays a role in cybersecurity practices.
However, like the Pew study which showed that education background and age played a role in knowledge level, CivicScience found differences in demographics regarding product adoption and usage.
The survey shows that teenagers are the most likely to adopt and use password technology, but the least likely to use software like Norton.
Nearly 25% of teens have used password managers, compared to just 14% of 30- to 54-year-olds. Overall, adoption decreases with age:
On the flip side, usage of cybersecurity software like Norton increases with age. Just over half of teens have used the software compared to more than three-quarters of 30- to 54-year olds. Over 20% of teens have never heard of the software before.
But when it comes to overall sentiment about cybersecurity, very few are resting easy.
Just looking at adults, we don’t see much variation among the age groups when asked about concerns over cybersecurity. Older adults (55+) are the most likely to be “very concerned” while Millennials (25-34) are the most likely to be “not at all concerned” — however, these are small variations.
Social Media Usage
There’s strong reason to believe that high cybersecurity concerns among Americans are responsible for slow adoption of new payment technologies like mobile payment apps. But despite recent high-profile cases that brought data privacy to the forefront (e.g., Facebook hearings), it’s not putting much of a dent in social media usage.
The survey shows little variation of social media habits between people who are highly concerned about cybersecurity and those who are not at all concerned.
Those who are not at all concerned actually use slightly less social media, while those who are the most concerned are the heaviest social media users. That suggests the obvious — the more social media you use, the more reason you have to worry about your online safety.
A takeaway from the study is that cybersecurity is a cause for concern for the majority of Americans, regardless of age. Using traditional cybersecurity software technology isn’t necessarily making anyone feel safer, and awareness and adoption of new technologies like password managers are severely low.
More research is needed to look at the ins and outs of this complex issue, but for now, let’s just say National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is probably here to stay.