The first step in protecting ourselves is realizing that there’s a lot we can do to stay safe online

While the shift to a digital-first life was brought on by the global pandemic, U.S. consumers plan to keep it up – with online banking (61%), social engagements (56%), and personal shopping (52%), at the top of the list, McAfee reveals.

stay safe online

With the increase in activities online, consumers are potentially exposed to more cyber threats. Notably, 66% of people in the U.S. say they’re concerned about today’s cyber risks, with 29% of respondents admitting that they are not confident in their ability to prevent a cyber-attack.

Cybercriminals taking advantage of consumers’ increased online presence

As consumers continue to adapt to and embrace their new digital worlds, cybercriminals are taking note and looking to take advantage. The more time consumers spend online interacting with various applications and services, the greater their exposure to potential risks (such as third-party breaches) and threats (such as phishing attacks or fraud).

Further proof that this is a big concern for consumers: 71% of U.S. respondents admitted to being most concerned about their financial data being stolen and 68% were concerned that their personal information, such as birth dates or addresses, could get hacked.

“The first step in protecting ourselves is realizing that there’s a lot we can do to stay safe online and to preserve our digital wellness,” said Terry Hicks, EVP of McAfee’s Consumer Business.

“It’s better to prevent a problem than be in a position of having to fix it. We can always work on our own safe online habits – from the apps we install, to the websites we click on, to the emails we open. Making this shift in our mindset and behaviors is a necessity in protecting what we value most- our privacy and identity- giving us all much needed peace of mind.”

Consumers becoming more comfortable with sharing information online

Consumers’ buying habits indicate how they are going about their new digital-first lives, with 70% of respondents saying they’ve purchased at least one connected device in 2020, while 1 in 3 bought three connected devices. However, only 50% took action by purchasing security software, and only 1 in 4 admitted that they actually check if their security software is up to date.

Consumers are also becoming more comfortable with sharing information online which is a big risk – especially as services often ask for multiple contact points. Notably, the report found that 77% of respondents indicated that they started using features designed for convenience in 2020, such as text and email notifications (47%), opt to stay logged in / remember user credentials (27%), and store & auto populate credit card details for faster check outs (24%).

In addition to not always taking the necessary security precautions, U.S. consumers admitted that they haven’t really thought about why hackers might want their data. Notably, 51% of U.S. respondents admitted that they never considered how much their data that is stored and available online is worth.

Hackers are always looking for ways to exploit others for money, and a person’s identity is valuable and can be resold for quite a bit of money. However, nearly 9 in 10 consumers say they would be proactive about protecting it, if that data could be traded as a currency.

Some ways consumers can stay safe online

  • Use multi-factor authentication to double check the authenticity of digital users and add an additional layer of security to protect personal data and information.
  • Connect with caution. If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection use a VPN to help keep you safe while you’re online.
  • Browse with added security using a tool that blocks malware and phishing sites if you click on a malicious link.
  • Protect your identity and important personal information.

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