In today’s connected world, businesses are prime targets for cyber attacks and unintentional missteps can result in critical exposure of consumers’ sensitive personal information.
Nearly three out of four Americans (72 percent) are more alarmed than ever about their privacy. However, the majority accept certain risks to their online privacy in exchange for convenience (66 percent).
They are also willing to sell or give away certain personal information, such as their location (55 percent) and internet search history (55 percent), to companies, according to the 2018 Norton LifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report, released from Norton LifeLock, a Symantec company, based on an online survey conducted by The Harris Poll of over 1,000 adults.
In the age of information sharing, control is now at the heart of society’s privacy paradox – from who should have it to what the consequences should be when it is mishandled. In fact, 93 percent of Americans believe it is important to require that companies give customers control of how their personal data is used, while nearly half (49 percent) believe it is absolutely essential.
Adequate recourse is also expected when personal information is not protected, with 51 percent of consumers believing it is absolutely essential that companies be required to provide a way for consumers to report misuse of their personal data, or consequently be fined.
“Our cyber safety is inherently tied to trust,” said Samir Kapuria, executive vice president and general manager, Consumer Digital Safety, Symantec.
“Most consumers are aware their data is being captured from the websites they visit, the social media they share and the apps they use, and trust their information is being properly secured. However, these same consumers are often unaware of how and why data is captured and what companies do with it. The sheer amount of personal information being collected about us shows no signs of slowing and there is greater value placed on it than ever before.”
Additional U.S. findings
- People view data protection as a right – not a privilege. Most Americans are not willing to pay organizations to ensure protection of their personal information. That’s particularly true when it comes to social media providers, with 72 percent of consumers saying they are not willing to pay providers to ensure their personal information is protected when using them, compared to 58 percent for retailers, 57 percent for healthcare institutions and 56 percent for financial institutions.
- Americans have little to no trust in social media providers. 94 percent of Americans express little (40 percent) or no (54 percent) trust in social media providers when it comes to managing and protecting their personal information. In fact, more than a quarter of Americans with a social media account (28 percent) have deleted an account in the past 12 months due to privacy concerns.
- Despite concerns, Americans embrace data sharing. While 85 percent of Americans are concerned about their privacy, many say they are willing to sell or give away certain personal data, including Internet search history (20 percent would give away for free, 35 percent would sell) and location (19 percent would give away, 36 percent would sell). Some are even willing to provide identification document information, such as driver’s license or passport information (18 percent would give away, 25 percent would sell).
- Younger generations are more inclined to take action on social media accounts. 33 percent of Americans ages 18-38 and 31 percent of those who are 39-53 who have a social media account deleted it in the past 12 months due to privacy concerns, compared to only 20 percent of those who are 54 and older. However, younger generations are significantly more likely to embrace data sharing in the digital age, with more than 60 percent of those who are 18-38 willing to sell or give away certain personal information (such as their location or internet search history), compared to less than 45 percent of those who are 54 and older.
Kapuria adds, “Although consumers want greater control over their privacy and action taken against those that mishandle personal data, they want this control to come without hassle or cost, so they are willing to take risks in favor of convenience. Convenience continues to reign supreme when it comes to sharing personal data.”
What’s next for cyber safety?
Over the last year alone, more than 105 million Americans experienced cyber crime – that’s two in five Americans (41 percent) – and 65 percent believe it’s likely they will experience cyber crime in the next year.
In fact, 62 percent believe they are equally or more likely to experience cybercrime than they are to get the flu! As a result of cyber crime in the past year, losses totaled an estimated $11.3 billion and 324.2 million hours lost dealing with the aftermath, with two out of five (37 percent) spending a week or longer dealing with the problem.
The realities of cyber crime can seem daunting – 84 percent of Americans want to do more to protect their online activities and personal information, while 43 percent don’t know how.
Best practices against online threats
There are several best practices consumers can follow to help safeguard against online threats:
- Never open suspicious-looking emails: Cyber criminals send fake emails or texts that may look legitimate. The links in these emails or texts contain malicious software that can download malware and spyware. The software may be able to mine your computer for personal information, which is then sent to a remote computer where the attacker could sell the information on the dark web or use the information to commit identity theft.
- Make use of a VPN on public Wi-Fi: Many public Wi-Fi connections are unencrypted. This could give cyber criminals a chance to snoop on data being sent and received by your device. If there are software vulnerabilities on your device, attackers can inject malware to help them gain access to your data. In some cases, attackers create fake Wi-Fi hotspots purporting to be legitimate networks.
- Own your online presence: Carefully read the terms and conditions before opening an account or downloading an application, including social media accounts. Be sure to set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your comfort level for information sharing.
- Get two steps ahead and manage your passwords: Switch on two-step verification or multi-factor authentication wherever offered to help prevent unauthorized access to your online accounts. Always change the default passwords to something strong and unique on your devices, services, and Wi-Fi networks.