The problem with our grasp of cybersecurity isn’t so much that we remain dangerously illiterate — it’s that we think we know what we’re doing anyway.
The Pew Research Center was a little more diplomatic than that though in characterizing the findings of a new survey of Americans’ understanding of online security.
“Many Americans are unclear about some key cybersecurity topics, terms and concepts,” wrote Kenneth Olmstead and Aaron Smith in their introduction to “What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity.” But it’s that thinking that probably leads many internet users to make choices that they think make them more secure, but, in reality, leave them as exposed as ever.
Passwords and privacy
The Pew report, based on an online survey done from June 17 to June 27 of 1,055 U.S. internet users aged 18 and up, found respondents were overwhelmingly in the know on just two points.
One is passwords. A full 75% correctly identified the most secure password out of four listed (“WTh!5Z”), while 17% said they weren’t sure if that was more resistant to being cracked or guessed than “into*48,” “Boat123” or that old favorite “123456.”
The survey did not, however, assess whether respondents actually refrained from using “123456” for any significant accounts.
The majority of survey respondents were also knew about the security risks posed by public WiFi: 73% agreed that just having a network password-protected doesn’t make it safe for sensitive activities like online banking.
Unfortunately, only 33% knew that a web address beginning with “https” means that site encrypts data going between it and your computer, which should prevent people on the same network from spying on your traffic. And only 13% knew that virtual-private-network services, which route all of your internet traffic over an encrypted link, further improve your…