Americans feel safer on a computer than a mobile device

Americans feel their home computers are protected from malware and attackers but that confidence does not translate to their mobile devices with 87 percent of people surveyed reporting they feel safer going online with their PCs than with their phones, according to s Symantec study released today.

The study shows that only 24 percent of Americans feel very safe and 61 percent feel somewhat safe that their home computers are protected. In comparison, only 18 percent of those polled feel their mobiles phones are very safe and 28 percent feel they are somewhat safe.

Interestingly, while Americans may say they feel protected on their home computers, they are experiencing a false sense of security. When asked, 58 percent reported they had a complete security software suite but when their computers were actually scanned for it, only 37 percent were fully protected. This perception versus reality gap is a concern given that today’s threats are complex, requiring comprehensive protection against online threats with a full security solution that includes antivirus, firewall, antispyware, spam filter, antiphishing, and identity protection.

This year’s study revealed just how much Americans are increasingly embracing the digital world. Half of Americans now have two to three computers at home, with 74 percent owning a laptop or netbook. All told, 31 percent said the laptop or netbook is their primary computer. Nearly 17 percent can connect to the Internet via their TV, and 24 percent connect via a gaming device. With the ever-increasing number of Web-enabled devices, Americans are dependent on multiple devices to connect to the Internet at home, work, school, and play.

These multiple points of connection pose new security risks. Wireless networks have reached high levels of adoption. The study found that 70 percent had a wireless router at home, but 43 percent admitted they have logged onto a wireless network without entering a password – a number that increases to 66 percent for 18 to 29 year olds.

When it comes to mobile phones, computer users aren’t taking the proper steps to protect themselves or their data. Just 22.2 percent back up personal data stored on their phones despite using them to keep private information such as personal contacts, calendars and e-mail.

Surprisingly, more than 64 percent said they always or sometimes read a developer’s privacy policy before downloading an app on their phones. Yet, only 5.7 percent believe they store passwords or account numbers in their apps and 23 percent believe they have ever used location-aware technology on their phones to track their whereabouts.

Just 5.1 percent feel the Internet is safer today than it was a year ago. Sixty-eight percent feel it’s about the same, while 21.2 percent think it’s less safe. Half of Americans say they are most concerned about identity theft of all the possible things that could happen to them online. Yet, in terms of keeping the Internet safe most feel it’s the individual and not the government who bears the most responsibility. More than 44 percent said individual users shoulder the burden for keeping the Internet safe and secure, while nearly 30 percent identified Internet security providers. Just 4 percent feel government, and 3.4 percent law enforcement carry the main responsibility.