Tag Archive for Pew Research Center

Don’t Know Much Security

Don’t Know Much SecurityWith apologies to Otis Redding, Americans don’t know much about security. They don’t know much privacy, or the SPAM they took. A new Pew Research Center survey, “What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity” quizzed 1,055 adults about their understanding of concepts important to online safety and privacy. The results of the Pew survey are unsettling.

questions about cybersecurityThe Pew Research survey asked 13 questions about cybersecurity. The median score was five correct answers. Just 20% answered eight questions correctly. A relatively large percentage of respondents answered “not sure” to questions rather than providing the wrong answer.

Most Americans don’t know how to protect themselves. Only 10% were able to identify one example of multi-factor authentication when presented with four images of online log-in screens.

Most Americans still unknowingly allow themselves to be tracked across the web. 61% of those surveyed were not aware that Internet Service Providers can still see the websites their customer visit even when they’re using “private browsing” on their search engines.

Internet securityA slight majority (52%) of people recognized that just turning off the GPS function on smartphones does not prevent all tracking of the phone’s location. Mobile phones can be tracked via cell towers or Wi-Fi networks.

Only 54% of respondents correctly identified a phishing attack. For cybercriminals, phishing remains a favorite trick for infecting computers with malware. Phishing schemes usually involve an email that directs users to click on a link to an infected website.

phishing attackComputer security software does a good job of blocking most phishing schemes, Stephen Cobb, security researcher for anti-virus software firm ESET told told Phys.org, including many advanced spear phishing attacks targeting people with personalized information.

Retired Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, head of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence, a trade group for the region’s cybersecurity industry told KnowB4.

It is probably our No. 1 concern and No. 1 vulnerability … These attackers keep upping their game. It has gone well beyond the jumbled, everything misspelled email.

cybersecurity2/3’s of Americans tested, could not identify what the what the ‘s’ in ‘https‘ meant. The article explains that the ‘s’ stands for secure, with website authentication and encryption of digital traffic. It is used mostly for online payments. Security researchers often suggest computer users check the website addresses – known as the URL – as a first step before they click on a link. ESET’s Cobb said, “You wonder if people know what a URL is … Do they know how to read a URL? So there is plenty of work to be done.”

In the most puzzling finding to me, 75% of participants identified the most secure password from a list of four options. And yet followers of Bach Seat know that year after year passwords suck. Could it be that Americans just don’t care about the online security?

Insecure passwordsFortunately some Americans also recognize that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t necessarily safe for online banking or e-commerce. The mixed security results highlights that staying secure online is not a priority for Americans at work or at home.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the Pew findings and quoted Forrester: “The percentage of security and risk professionals citing “security awareness” as a top priority rose to 61% last year, from 56% in 2010.”

In the enterprise,Heidi Shey, a senior analyst at Forrester, told CIO Journal that security awareness training isn’t always effective, since it’s often conducted once a year as a compliance issue and involves lists of dos and don’ts.

The human element is important in safeguarding a firm against cyberattack, since it’s both a first line of defense as well as a weak link. Successful awareness efforts are focused on enabling behavioral change, and typically customized and specific to an organization, its workforce, and relevant risks.


The data from Pew says that enterprise and home users need to be more security aware. Technology can’t solve stupid so users have to be the last line of defense.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Few Americans Have Changed Behavior post-Snowden

Few Americans Have Changed Behavior post-SnowdenEdward Snowden’s revelations of the US Government’s spying programs has changed the world. The data collection programs have impacted US business ability to sell abroad. Recent regulations introduced in China have knocked Apple (AAPL),Cisco (CSCO), McAfee and Citrix (CTXS) out of growing markets.

government surveillanceLisa Vaas, at Sophos’ Naked Security blog points us to a recent  Pew Research Center survey that documents the impact of TLA spying and data collection on the home-front. Most Americans (87%) have heard about the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) surveillance programs since Snowden began leaking documents nearly two years ago. The Pew research found that nearly one-third of American adults have taken steps to protect their information from government surveillance programs that monitor phone and digital communications.

Out of those surveyed who are at least somewhat aware of the NSA’s surveillance programs (30% of adults),

  • 34% have taken at least one step to keep their information hidden or shielded from the government.
  • 25% are using more complex passwords
  • 17% changed their privacy settings on social media
  • 15% use social media less often
  • 15% have avoided certain apps
  • 14% say they speak more in person instead of communicating online or on the phone
  • 13% have uninstalled apps
  • 13% have avoided using certain terms in online communications

surveillance programsWhen it comes to how well the courts are balancing the needs of law enforcement and intelligence agencies with citizens’ right to privacy:

  • 49% say courts and judges are not balancing those interests;
  • 48% say they are.

The article says the public approves of monitoring plenty of people, including foreign citizens, foreign leaders, and American leaders:

  • 82% say it’s acceptable to monitor communications of suspected terrorists;
  • 60% believe it’s acceptable to monitor the communications of American leaders;
  • 60% think it’s OK to monitor the communications of foreign leaders;
  • 54% say it’s acceptable to monitor communications from foreign citizens;
  • 57% say that the monitoring of citizens’ communications is unacceptable;
  • 65% – think it’s OK to monitor people who pepper their communications with words such as “explosives” and “automatic weapons” in search engine queries;
  • 67% think it’s OK to monitor people who visit anti-American websites.

Social media privacyAmericans are split about just how much we should worry about surveillance – particularly when it comes to their own digital behavior.

  • 39% describe themselves as concerned about government monitoring of their activity on search engines.
  • 38% say they’re concerned about government monitoring of their activity on their email messages.
  • 37% express concern about government monitoring of their activity on their cell phone.
  • 31% are concerned about government monitoring of their activity on social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • 29% say they’re concerned about government monitoring of their activity on their mobile apps.

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

R Social Networks Bad 4 U?

R Social Networks Bad 4 U?The average US Facebook users spends 6.5 hours a month on the site. There is growing global evidence that using social networks have a negative impact on their users. Not only do social networks open their users to malware (PDF) and identity theft, but the latest research from around the world suggests that social media can impact users emotional well-being.

Facebook can make you feel bad. BuzzFeed reports that social scientists at the University of Michigan looked at the impact of social networking and recently released new research that using Facebook can make you feel bad. The U of M research published in the online journal Plos One, found that Facebook use predicted declines in the well-being of surveyed participants.

The Michigan research indicates that using Facebook negatively impact both how people feel from one moment to the next as well as overall life satisfaction. As UM social psychologist Ethan Kross explained to BuzzFeed:

On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”

BuUniversity of MichiganzzFeed points out that the results are just another piece in a larger stack of evidence to suggest that the ever increasing hours per month spent on Facebook could have a harmful effect on our lives. Professor Kross told the LA Times: “We measured lots and lots of other personality and behavioral dimensions … none of the factors that we assessed influenced the results. The more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped.”

While the organizers of the recent Michigan study tested for and discounted alternative reasons that might account for Facebook’s negative impact on happiness, the article claims the deceased life satisfaction of Facebook users has more to do with behavioral patterns than the service itself.

The article equates Facebook use with gambling. The author cites Alexis Madrigal‘s article in the Atlantic, “The Machine Zone,” that Facebook users, similar to those who play slot machines, to be unwittingly lulled into a time-distorting rhythm by repetitive and sometimes rewarding tasks — like looking at an endless stream of your friends’ photos. This behavior can mimic the deleterious effects of gambling and even addiction. The article claims this kind of problem stems from Facebook’s savvy design and engineering, to take advantage of how human are wired to keep users on the site.

ChinaTechEye also points out a study from researchers at China’s Beihang University which claims social networking sites are generating a lot of anger. The study, by Rui Fan, Jichang Zhao, Yan Chen, and Ke Xu, examined human emotions on China’s Twitter like micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.

After reading 70 million messages from 200,000 users of Weibo, the researchers found that anger spreads faster and wider than other emotions like joy. The TechEye article suggests that posts you write out of anger will have more impact than those expressing happiness. The researchers also found that users with larger number of friends have more significant sentiment influence to their neighborhoods. According to the article, the Chinese researchers found that anger among users correlated much higher than that of joy. They concluded that angry emotions could spread more quickly and broadly in the network.

Angry messagesIf a user sent an angry message, researchers looked at how likely the recipients were to also send out an angry message or retweet the same emotion. The BuzzFeed article also references a German study which found that Facebook’s social pressures created noticeable stress and feelings of envy, that could, ultimately, lead to people abandon the social network.

A Pew Research Center report released in May 2013 reinforces the risks Facebook faces. According to BuzzFeed, younger users told Pew the stress of needing to manage their reputation on Facebook contributes to their lack of enthusiasm for the social network. Nevertheless, the site is still where a large amount of socializing takes place, and teens feel they need to stay on Facebook to not miss out.

Social media survivalThe BuzzFeed article concludes that future social media networks will have to figure out have to survive if they makes us sad. The question isn’t exclusive to Facebook — in a recent survey, social media as an industry ranked third to last in consumer satisfaction, falling below the airline industry. They state that it’s not hard to imagine a future where users will demand social platforms that are not only intensely engaging, but also keenly aware and respectful of how our psychological state works.

As Madrigal notes in his post, “fighting the great nullness at the heart of these coercive loops should be one of the goals of technology design, use, and criticism.” Facebook has succeeded in its mission to connect the world. But we’re only beginning to understand what that means for humanity.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.