Although the devastating nature of cyber attacks has become well-known with the proliferation of serious, high profile security breaches in recent years, an overwhelming minority of Internet users possess the skills necessary to protect themselves against online threats.
According to a new survey by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs and B2B International, three-quarters of Internet users would download a potentially malicious file because they lack the cyber knowledge they need to spot dangers online. The survey quizzed 18,000 Internet users from 16 countries around the world about their online habits.
“Consumers need to make themselves more aware of the dangers of the online world, in order to protect themselves and others,” David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab said in a statement. “If a consumer is in a dodgy bar, they are unlikely to start counting large sums of cash, it just would not be streetwise or sensible. The same sort of instinct should come into play when consumers go online.”
The respondents were asked to consider several potentially dangerous situations during common Internet uses, such as web surfing, downloading files or using social networks. Depending on the possible negative consequences, each answer was given a certain score. The safer the user’s choice, the higher their score, and vice versa.
The survey revealed that a significant number of users are unable to identify a cyber threat. Only one out of four users could identify a genuine webpage without selecting a phishing option as well. Additionally, while specifying the web pages on which they were prepared to enter their data, over half—58 percent—of users only named fake sites.
“Checking for signs of malicious activity, and knowing how to spot a phishing page or dangerous download option is vital,” Emm said. “However, no matter how cyber-savvy a person is, it is unsafe to go online without putting security solutions in place. Cyber criminals are constantly developing new ways to target people and only the most up to date security software can protect users against some threats.”
In addition to failing to identify online threats, Internet users also have trouble protecting their virtual information. According to the results of the test, while choosing a password for a new account, only 38 percent of respondents thought of a new and more complicated combination.
Furthermore, 14 percent of respondents risk having several accounts simultaneously compromised in the event of a data leak by using the same password on all occasions. Users also put their information at risk by choosing insecure methods for securing passwords, including writing them down on paper or saving them on a mobile phone.
These findings corroborate Kaspersky’s October report, The Compared Perceptions of Passwords and Underwear Report, which revealed 73 percent of surveyed users would rather reveal their passwords than go without underwear.
Commenting on the report on a recent company blog post, Kate Kochetkova said, “The problem to be focus on here is that so many users only care about security to a medium level, if they care about it at all.”
Consequently, Kochetkova recommended creating unique and reliable passwords for all accounts.
“Many people are careless about their devices and the data stored on them: they enter their personal information on phishing pages, choose passwords that are too easy, follow any proposed links, download and install unchecked software … All this makes them vulnerable and easy targets for fraudsters, criminals and tricksters,” the report concluded.