Cyber security worries grow

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The recent story concerning the cyber-hacking of 40 million credit card numbers from national retailer Target is once again heightening fears that electronic data remains increasingly vulnerable out there in the digital world.

Now, the need for better information technology (IT) security is a topic touched on quite a bit in this space but this most recent hacking attack upon target – not to mention the massive size of it – are sparking a new round of worries among consumers and businesses alike; concerns that trucking needs to keep a close watch upon since so much of its everyday operations are becoming more digitally based.

The spike in worry about the state of cyber security are at the heart of a new poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters recently completed by research firms Benenson Strategy Group and American Viewpoint on behalf of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which found found that Internet users are highly concerned about the theft of personal and financial information and believe strongly that the federal government should do more to protect them.

The survey found that on average, voters are five times more worried about hacking than tracking, while 80% say they are more worried the information they share will be hacked to cause harm or steal from them. By contrast, only 16% are more worried that companies will use the information they share online to target advertising to them.

The poll also found that, overall, some 75% are worried about their personal information being stolen by hackers and 54% are worried about their browsing history being tracked for targeted advertising.

However, when voters are forced to choose which one is more important to them their focus is almost unanimously (87%) directed on the need to protect their personal information from those who would use the info to harm them. Even those worried about tracking (the 54%) are more worried about hacking by an overwhelming majority (84% to 8%).

“By wide margins this survey clearly shows that identity theft has touched the majority of consumers in some way, and that hacking is more worrisome to consumers than tracking, and that voters want the government to more aggressively go after cyber criminals,” noted Ed Black (at right), CCIA’s president and CEO. “Safeguarding users online must become a higher priority for companies and also for the regulators and policymakers charged with protecting consumers.”

Voters are also “acutely aware” of the threats to the security of their information, CCIA’s poll found, and they strongly believe the federal government should go after hackers and thieves. Some 55% reported that they or someone they know had their email account breached, with 62% report receiving a suspicious email from someone likely due to that person’s email being hacked. Importantly, 50% say they or someone they know had their financial accounts breached online.

This acute awareness of threats to the security of their information has resulted in strong sentiment for the government to take action to protect online security, CCIA pointed out, as 74% say the federal government needs to do more to prevent and act against identity theft, including a 56% majority of voters who say they feel strongly about this.

Those polled by CCIA also report that that they are not standing idly by while all of this goes on – a positive finding, to say the least. The survey found 73% chose to not allow a service to remember their credit card information, while 65% set their browser to disable cookies and 53% blocked applications from accessing their location information.

On top of all that, 68% of those polled said they have adjusted the privacy settings for their online accounts, but of those, just 2% say they did so because they don’t want to see ads; only 7% say they haven’t adjusted their privacy settings because they do not know how to do so.

According to the survey, more folks are taking steps to protect the security of their information as over three in four (76%) of the survey respondents indicated they have used a different password for each service, with 57% signing up for a two-step sign-in process. Also, 83% have required a password to unlock their devices at some point, CCIA reported.

Yet all of this represents still only the opening stages of the cyber war against illicit hacking by online criminals – and it most likely will get worse before it gets better.

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