Sixty-one percent of Americans said the President should have the ability to shut down portions of the Internet in the event of a coordinated malicious cyber attack, according to research by Unisys.
The survey found that while Americans are taking proactive steps to protect themselves against cybercrime and identity theft, only slightly more than a third of Internet users in the U.S. regularly use and update passwords on their mobile devices – creating a potentially huge security hole for organizations as more consumer devices invade the workplace.
The findings illustrate that recent events such as the Stuxnet computer worm attack and the attempted Times Square car bombing may have heightened the American public’s awareness of and concern over global and domestic cybersecurity threats.
The findings also suggest the public may support a pending cybersecurity bill that would give the President far-reaching authority over the Internet in the case of an emergency.
“A majority of the American population is willing to grant the President the authority to cut short their Internet access to protect both U.S. assets and citizens, suggesting that the public is taking cyber warfare very seriously,” said Patricia Titus, VP and CISO, Unisys. “Our survey shows that the American public recognizes the danger of a cyber attack and wants the federal government to take an active role in extending the nation’s cyber defense. It will be up to officials in all branches of the federal government to respond to this call to action in a way that is measured and well planned.”
Mobile devices: A hole in American defenses?
The results also indicate that most Americans are being proactive in protecting themselves from cybercrime and identity theft. More than three-quarters (80%) of Americans regularly limit access to personal information posted to social media sites and make use of privacy settings; and 73% regularly update anti-virus software.
However, the majority of Americans surveyed are neglecting other important aspects of cybersecurity, particularly around their use of consumer devices. Only 37% of users surveyed say they are regularly using and updating passwords on their mobile devices. The survey also found that less than half of American Internet users (46%) regularly use and update hard-to-guess passwords on their computers.
Overall U.S. results
The Unisys Security Index surveys consumer opinion on four areas of security: financial, national, Internet and personal safety. More than 1,000 Americans responded to the latest survey. The results are tallied on a scale of 0-300, with 300 representing the highest level of perceived concern.
The overall score for the current Unisys Security Index for the United States was 136, indicating a moderate level of overall security concern. The overall score declined from 147 since the last survey taken in February 2010, reflecting a decrease in concern across all four areas of security.
National security and financial security continued to rank as the U.S. public’s greatest areas of concern, with more than half (59%) “extremely” or “very” concerned about U.S. national security. In addition, 57% percent of Americans were seriously concerned about identity theft, and the same percentage is also seriously concerned about credit card and debit card fraud.
American’s fear surrounding Internet security continues to be on the decline with the number of Americans “not concerned” about computer security in relation to viruses or spam increasing to 34%, the greatest number since the Index’s inception. The most dramatic decline was reported in those “seriously concerned” about the security of shopping or banking online – from 43% in February 2010 to 34% in August 2010.
Unisys surveyed more than 10,575 consumers in 11 countries around the world about their current security concerns. Additional key global findings from the survey include:
- Security concerns were highest in Brazil, which reported an overall index score of 185, closely followed by Hong Kong with a score of 172. The Netherlands reported the lowest level of concern with an overall score of 71.
- Bank card fraud is the greatest single area of concern across all eleven countries surveyed. Despite the severity of the worldwide financial crisis, concern about bankcard fraud consistently overshadows concern about meeting financial obligations in countries with serious concerns about financial security.
- Most Europeans take the protection of their online privacy and identity seriously. In Germany, 28% of internet users switched banks or retailers because of unhappiness with their privacy and identity protection or have considered doing so.