How secure are you online?

Interesting research out from Microsoft today finds computer users in the United States tend to be more security and privacy centric that many other countries, but we still have a long way to go before we can considered ourselves highly-secure online.

The research is sponsored by Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group. The study, conducted in five countries, seeks to understand consumer adoption of online tools and behaviors, said Microsoft.

An executive summary, which you can find here, sums up the research (click on U.S. Executive Summary for U.S. results). Responses were ranked in Microsoft’s Computing Safety Index, which gives a weighted score of three tiers of activity, each consisting of different steps consumers can take to help protect themselves and their families when they go online. The more steps taken, the higher the score; 100 is the highest rating possible.

In the summary you can read about how several countries ranked with regard to taking steps such as using strong passwords, keeping privacy settings on high when using social networks and running up-to-date anti-virus software. Take a look and see what you and your family are doing when online and what you might consider doing in the future to up your security rating.

The average score across the five countries was 34, which is considered on the lower end of “adequate” by Microsoft’s standards (they don’t call it that, but their terminology “take it up a notch” is basically saying “you’re doing some things, but you need to do more.”).

Always keep in mind that when research comes from a vendor, which is what Microsoft is, there is, of course, going to also be a motive to get you to buy products. CyberSavvyMom will always point this out to you when writing about vendor-sponsored research. Still, if the results were not noteworthy, I would not take the time to write about them.

An interesting thing to note is that the United States has the second highest MSCI score behind Brazil. Attitudes and experiences in the United States are more similar to Brazil than the European countries, said Microsoft officials. Both the United States and Brazil have above average security and privacy concerns and some consumers limit their online activities because of these concerns, said Microsoft in a summary of the findings.

The majority of Americans polled said they believe that they are primarily responsible for protecting their own security and privacy compared to the government or companies that conduct business online. This is good, in my opinion, because only we can truly look out for ourselves online, where we come across nasty viruses, malware, scams and other threats each day.

Among some of the findings:

–       Sixty-four percent received an email from unknown senders asking for personal information in the last twelve months

–       Fifty-nine percent reported having adware or spyware on their PC in the last twelve months

–       Twenty-two percent worry about their online reputation

–       Fifty-five percent said it is easy for companies to aggregate information about them

–       Fifty-one percent noted being concerned about their activities being tracked

–       Forty-eight percent reported they worry about the amount of information is online about them

–       Approximately one-third limit what they do online due to concerns about security (33%) and privacy (32%)

–       A majority believe they are primarily responsible for protecting their own online security (51%) and privacy (59%)

Again, check out the report and see what you think? Are you a secure online user? Or could you stand to take more steps to ensure your privacy and safety? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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