Real-life consequences for choosing convenience over security

Despite being aware of security threats, the risky online behavior of young adults can negatively affect their future career prospects and financial standings, while leaving them vulnerable to identity theft and fraud, according to a new survey by RSA.

“The irony of these findings is that the generation that has grown up with the greatest percentage of its life knowing technology and the Internet and that claims to know about the risks of technology is the one that is ignoring the good advice,” said Sam Curry, Chief Technologist at RSA.

Research firm TRU polled more than 1,000 young adults between the ages of 18-24 regarding their online behavior and security precautions, and found that more than seven out of ten admit that they are not always as careful as they should be when posting and accessing information online. The research also reveals that young adults regularly make risky choices when engaging in activities such as file sharing and social networking that can lead to long-lasting negative consequences and result in damage to an individual’s reputation both online and off.

Choosing convenience over online safety

The research revealed that while young adults understand the mounting risks associated with unsafe online habits, they are not taking the appropriate actions to change those behaviors, leaving themselves vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.

While 73% of survey respondents acknowledge concern about being a victim of online fraud or identity theft, 71% also admit that despite good intentions, they are not always as careful as they should be when it comes to their personal online safety. More than 50% of all respondents admitted to both using the same password for all of their online accounts and staying logged in to their personal sites to avoid the time and hassle of logging-in every time. Additionally, more than 75% of those surveyed said most people their age are willing to accept more risk when purchasing items online in return for lower prices.

Real-life consequences

The survey also found that risky online behavior does increase exposure to threats that potentially can have long-lasting negative effects on financial history, credit scores and housing opportunities. However, 55% of those surveyed indicate they never check their credit report, and 35% do not always check bank records after making online purchases. Moreover, 31% of those surveyed admit they do not always take steps to verify a website is legitimate before submitting credit card information.

Sixty-four percent of all respondents also claim to have experienced at least one of the following:

  • Been a victim of identity theft
  • Lost or stolen cell phone, laptop, flash drive, credit card or mail
  • A compromised hard drive, email, social network, online payment (i.e. PayPal) or other online financial account
  • Photos or other personal information ended up online without their knowledge.

The survey also polled young adults regarding their online behavior and how it may affect job searches, finding that while 76% indicate they are currently or soon plan to begin searching for a job, and 67% have posted inappropriate content, photos, and/or videos involving cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex online, which could potentially limit employment opportunities.

The complete survey is available here.

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