Incentivizing secure online behavior across generations

As the landscape of online security continues to evolve, there is a noticeable shift in people’s perceptions of cybersecurity, with an increasing awareness of its vital role in staying safe online, according to a survey conducted by the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and CybSafe.

cybersecurity practices adoption

73% of Britons are now familiar with multi-factor authentication (MFA), which is surpassed by New Zealanders (77%), Americans (79%) and Canadians (83%).

67% of MFA users actively use it to enhance their online security regularly. However, despite these positive trends, there are concerns about access to adequate training; based on the survey, only 36% of participants reported having access to cybersecurity training programs, primarily through employment or education.

“While the improving awareness over the past year suggests the public is moving in the right direction, the next step is turning that awareness into actions that provide real protection. As people become aware of the threats, we must encourage them to act and use the available tools to protect themselves online.” Said Oz Alashe, CEO of CybSafe.

“Additionally, the perception of high costs associated with online protection from our findings highlights the importance of showcasing and delivering affordable cybersecurity solutions accessible for everyone,” Alashe added.

“The rise of proactive cybersecurity measures is encouraging, showcasing improved threat awareness and readiness to respond,” said Lisa Plaggemier, Executive Director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance. “However, emphasising the need for affordable, accessible, and comprehensive cybersecurity measures to safeguard individuals by both the private and public sector is going to be paramount in an increasingly digital world.”

Awareness and adoption of cybersecurity measures continue to grow

Across nations, there has been a substantial surge in cybersecurity awareness, with a sizable majority in all participating nations (with the exception of France) demonstrating familiarity with MFA. Across the UK and US, this marks a 21% increase from last year’s figures.

Notably, in the UK, 68% of those who have heard of the security measure know how to use MFA and regularly incorporate it into their online security measures, underscoring their growing dedication to safeguarding their digital accounts.

Moreover, the adoption of password managers has made significant headway, with 31% of respondents utilising these tools at some point to bolster password security. These findings reflect a promising trend, indicating that people are increasingly well-informed and proactive in their cybersecurity endeavours.

Adoption of cybersecurity practices

A majority of people are embracing proactive approaches to fortify their online protection. 60% of respondents consistently update their software and applications, with 36% doing it always and an additional 24% doing it very often.

Additionally, 66% express confidence in their ability to identify phishing attempts, signifying improved awareness of digital threats. This newfound confidence translates into action, as 51% of Americans and 40% of Britons actively report cybercrimes, particularly instances of phishing.

While individuals across nations are increasingly taking proactive steps to secure their digital lives, the survey found that 39% of participants expressed frustration and 37% felt intimidated by the process of staying secure online.

These sentiments underscore the need for user-friendly cybersecurity solutions. Bridging these gaps is critical to empowering users and encouraging the widespread adoption of effective cybersecurity practices, ultimately fortifying the digital security landscape.

Concerns and victimisation on the rise

Cybersecurity concerns have intensified across the world, with 61% of American and British participants worrying about becoming victims of cybercrime. This heightened level of awareness likely arises from a greater likelihood of attack. Americans were the most targeted of all nations surveyed, with a substantial 36% of respondents acknowledging they have been victims of one or more cybercrimes, a whole 8% more than the next most prevalent target, the UK.

These fears of falling victim to cybercrime are felt worldwide as there was a 7% increase in the overall number of people who thought they may become victims of cybercrime compared to last year. The survey also found that half of the participants across the nations surveyed thought they were potential targets for cybercriminals, underscoring the necessity for continued efforts to bolster cybersecurity measures.

The data reveals a notable shortcoming among younger generations – despite their understanding of online risks and security measures, and even with the highest access to cyber training (56% of Gen Z and 50% of Millennials), this group still faces a disproportionately higher rate of cybercrime victimisation.

Astonishingly, 43% of Gen Z and 36% of Millennials reported being victims of cybercrimes, significantly more than the Silent Generation (20%) and Baby Boomers (15%) who lack access to formal cybersecurity training.

At the same time, these digital natives are twice as likely to disagree with the idea that security is worth the effort. This is reflected in their cyber habits, with half of Gen Z and 41% of Millennials admitting to using personal information like names of family members or pets, dates and places when creating passwords.

These findings underscore the urgent need for targeted educational initiatives that empower older generations while incentivising tech-savvy digital natives to adopt safer online behaviours and a more secure digital environment.

Education and training gaps remain

Awareness of cybersecurity practices is on the rise, but gaps in education and training persist. While 70% of respondents indicated familiarity with MFA, 33% of those aware of the feature admitted either not using, or not knowing how to use it, pointing to the potential for expanded adoption.

Concerns also linger around password security, as 32% of respondents incorporated personal information into their passwords, potentially jeopardising the security of their accounts, this number increased to 41% for millennials and 50% for Gen Z.

Additionally, while data backup practices have shown improvement, further attention is needed, as only 42% of respondents consistently back up their data. Addressing these educational gaps will be pivotal in enhancing cybersecurity knowledge and practices.

Ongoing security training is one area where improvement is needed, with only 30% of respondents who received such training reporting continuous sessions despite this being widely recognised as a best practice. Transitioning to more frequent and bite-sized cybersecurity education that targets specific security behaviours will be crucial to positioning consumers to better protect themselves from cyber risks.

Perceptions of high cybersecurity protection costs have escalated, with 49% of respondents viewing it as an expensive endeavour. Furthermore, disparities in access to cybersecurity training persist, with only 44% of participants reporting access to such programs. Notably, respondents exhibited a preference for online training courses (47%), emphasising the need for flexible learning options to bridge the educational divide. Overcoming challenges related to cost and accessibility will be essential to ensure that cybersecurity remains attainable and affordable for all.

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