Cybersecurity has become an increasingly relevant topic of debate and contention in recent years. It’s believed that most Americans don’t feel secure regarding cybersecurity. Here are five critical insights about cybersecurity that you should know. 

1. Most people don’t feel their personal information is safe online.

For the past several years, hacks have been the top type of breach to steal personal information. During the first half of 2022, it is believed that nearly 2,000 data breaches occurred in the U.S., with more than half caused by hacks. According to data, the most compromised items are names, followed by social security numbers. Other commonly stolen personal data includes financial and medical information, addresses, credit card numbers, dates of birth, account information, and passwords. 

With data breaches a somewhat common occurrence, it’s unsurprising that current CivicScience survey results reveal most U.S. adults don’t feel their personal information is very safe online. However, feelings of safety have improved slightly since last year. Only 6% of people assumed their personal details, including passwords, were ‘very safe’ online in 2021, while in 2022, 10% felt the same. Likewise, in 2021, 40% found their personal information ‘[wasn’t] safe at all’, whereas today that number has fallen to 36%.

Interestingly, in both 2021 and 2022, 54% of survey respondents assume their passwords and personal details are somewhat safe. This indicates that most people are not content with how their personal information is stored and secured online.

2. The majority of Americans still don’t use password managers.

A password manager is known as a software application designed to manage and store online credentials. In most instances, these passwords are stored within a carefully encrypted database with a master password protecting them. 

Recent CivicScience data show that most U.S. adults (74%) don’t use or have not heard of password managers, such as 1Password or Bitwarden, even with many cybersecurity threats. However, interest and usage has inched upward since last year. Today, 17% of respondents say they have used password managers, compared to 14% in 2021. And the number of people planning to use password managers has nearly doubled since 2021, from 5% to 9% today. 

Awareness has also grown – in 2021, 39% of people said they had never heard of password managers, whereas in 2022, 37% said the same.

3. Ad blockers are most popular on computers.

When it comes to online security, ad blockers seem more popular than password managers among the general population. Current survey data show that 58% of survey respondents use ad blockers, while 42% choose not to. 

Americans are most likely to use ad blockers on their computers (44%), versus on their smartphones (32%), tablets (18%), or other digital devices (7%). 

To note, ad blocker usage on computers has decreased year-over-year since 2020, while usage on smartphones saw a slight increase, although no longer appears to be growing.

4. Fewer than 1-in-5 U.S. adults trust tech companies.

Although technology companies like Google and Apple have impressive security measures in place to prevent cyber attacks such as hacks, few people have a high level of trust in tech companies to protect their personal privacy. CivicScience uncovered that only 15% of survey respondents have high trust in technology companies, while 85% have medium or low to no trust. 

Comparing trust in technology companies with shopping habits, data reveal that of those respondents who have high trust in technology companies, 50% are likely to do all or nearly all of their shopping online (not including groceries or pharmaceuticals). 

In contrast, of those who had low to no trust in tech companies, only 29% prefer to do most of their shopping online, while 53% do the majority of their shopping in-store. This suggests that trust in tech companies to protect personal privacy is a major factor in determining whether or not someone is likely to shop online or in stores. 

5. Trust in home tech products is also low.

In recent years home technology products like Amazon’s Alexa speakers and Ring Video Doorbell systems have become increasingly popular. Yet, despite their popularity, many U.S. adults are more likely to distrust these devices than they are to trust them. 

Nearly half – 46% – of survey participants have low to no trust in smart home products to protect their privacy and personal data (such as data collected from video, search info, and voice commands). In comparison, only 8% of people highly trust smart home products. 

Looking at smart home integration with devices such as Winx, Hue, and Nest, those who own one or more of these devices and use it often are much more likely to trust smart home products; 31% have high trust, while 4% have low to no trust. In contrast, non-owners who don’t plan to purchase these products have the lowest overall level of trust in smart home devices to protect their information; 63% have low to no trust. This suggests that trust could play a significant role in whether or not someone will purchase and use a smart home device.

Looking specifically at smart home speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, it’s clear that even most owners don’t fully trust these products to protect their privacy and personal data. Only 15%-16% of smart speaker owners have high levels of trust in these kinds of devices, while the majority have medium trust or low to no trust. On the other hand, 63% of those who don’t own a smart speaker and don’t plan on owning one are far more likely to have not trust smart home products at all.

Ultimately, based on these findings, it’s clear that most Americans don’t have high levels of trust in technology companies and smart home products, which is likely to impact consumer behavior. Likewise, very few people feel their information is safe online, although this has improved slightly since 2021 and could possibly be related to an increase in password manager usage. Since technology will continue evolving along with the use of personal information online, CivicScience will keep tracking these and additional trends in cybersecurity.