by Andy Patrizio
Despite the efforts of Microsoft, Symantec and other security firms, consumers worldwide are barely cognizant of security procedures and hardly any take proactive security steps.
In its second Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) survey of 10,000+ PC, smartphone and tablet users worldwide, 55% experienced multiple online risks but only 16% took proactive safety measures.
None of the stats are encouraging. Just 47% of surveyed users said they find theft of account information or passwords a reason for concern and only 33% are actively fighting online theft by using secure Websites. Only 28% avoid using open Wi-Fi hotspots on mobile devices.
Only 48% of respondents said they feel computer viruses are a reason for concern, and only 53% say they install antivirus software and 44% have active firewalls on their machines. Only 42% run software updates on their computers and 28% check for updates on their mobile devices.
Unfortunately, Microsoft only got into the What of the survey - the behaviors. It did not get into the Why for those behaviors. For instance, it doesn't delve into why so few people have their firewalls turned on or routinely upgrade their software or their smartphones, said Jacqueline Beauchere, who is being elevated to a newly-created position in the company of Chief Online Safety Officer.
But Beauchere does have some insight into user actions, or inactions as it were. "Some people just don?t know they have to do it. We've got to raise awareness, change their attitudes and eventually you will change their behavior. But it's a slow process. It doesn't take place overnight. People are not driven to take proactive action. They have busy lives and are not driven to invest here," she said.
Microsoft also found that people are driven to take more action after something bad has happened to them. Of course by then it's too late. Most malware will stop you from installing antimalware software once you are infected. "What we're trying to do with our education efforts is to not get to that point. We try to make it fun and interesting because we want people to be proactive," said Beauchere.
That includes education smartphone users, who don't think their phone needs protection like a PC would. Many people don't realize that Android malware has exploded in recent years, and in the MCSI study, Microsoft found people in developing countries have skipped over home PCs in favor of smart phones with just as much personal info as most people keep on a home computer.
One good bit of news: no one makes the excuse that they skipped on security because of its costs. "It's never been brought up because there are so many free solutions," said Beauchere.
Beauchere believes everyone from hardware makers to retailers to software security firms has a role to play to educate consumers. "We look at this as a shared responsibility. In the industry, we have the responsibility to make the safest, most secure product we can and we have an obligation to educate the customer on the risks that are out there. We call that digital citizenship, fostering people to be good digital citizens," she said.
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