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Pew Study: Consumer Knowledge Weak on Cybersecurity Topics, Tactics

Posted on 3/23/2017

Very few American consumers have a complete understanding of several consumer-focused cybersecurity concepts, a new Pew Research Center study found. When asked to respond to 13 cybersecurity-related questions, the average consumer answered roughly 5 questions correctly, and just one percent of respondents received a perfect score.

The study highlighted an uneven understanding among adults active online about various cybersecurity terms and topics. For instance, consumers were very well aware of what constitutes a strong password -- 75 percent were able to identify the strongest password from a list of options. Similarly, 73 percent knew that public wi-fi networks were unsecured, and that transmitting sensitive information over public networks could increase the risk of fraud. However, when it came to identifying phishing scams, only 54 percent were able to do so.

Consumer knowledge was lowest with regard to multi-factor authentication. When asked to identify an example of a multi-factor authentication process (which most banks now employ to enhance customer data protection), just 10 percent of participants responded correctly. The survey also found consumers' knowledge was spotty regarding encrypted websites and emails, private browsing, botnets and virtual private networks.

View the study results

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