WASHINGTON — Are you protected? Despite a number of breaches to large organizations in 2016, and the pervasiveness of average individuals being hacked, a study shows that a majority of Americans don’t take recommended security precautions online.
Pew Research Center interviewed 1,040 adults nationwide in the spring of 2016 to gain insight into their attitudes and habits concerning cybersecurity. Part of an ongoing series by Pew, this most recent study found that 64 percent of Americans have been hacked or had their data stolen in some manner in the past.
Forty-nine percent of Americans indicated that they feel their personal information is less secure than it was five years ago, which would seem to suggest that these individuals would be proactive in doing something to calm their worries.
The study found 83 percent of Americans either memorize or jot down their passwords, while only 3 percent primarily use a password management system — which is widely considered the best method for password retrieval by cybersecurity experts.
“If Americans were taking a cybersecurity test right now, we’d be getting maybe a gentleman’s C,” Pew associate research director Aaron Smith told Yahoo.
Furthermore, a substantial number of Americans use password behaviors that experts strongly advise against, including sharing passwords with family or friends, using very similar passwords for multiple accounts, and using easy-to-guess passwords.
While many may not be aware of these practices, those who do experience breaches of data do not seem to learn, as they were found to be no more likely than average to practice defensive behavior.
This might be because although data breaches happen to most, they don’t seem to be a top priority for most Americans: only 30 percent expressed concern in regards to their personal password security.
Americans showed laziness in other forms of digital safety, too. Fourteen percent of the participants never update their phone’s operating system and 10 percent never update the apps. Updating software is critical because the updates often contain fixes to bugs that are vulnerable to hackers.