Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Online Safety: Users Talk the Talk, Don't Walk the Walk

  |  November 2, 2004   |  Comments

The perception gap: Internet users think they're safe, but ignore fundamental security precautions.

When it comes to online security, perception is definitely not reality. According to a joint AOL/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Online Safety Study, users believe themselves to be "safe" in general. Their computers indicate otherwise.

The survey found 77 percent of users believe their home computers are either very safe (28 percent) or somewhat safe (49 percent) from online threats. When pollsters asked how safe users feel they are against viruses, the combined percentage dropped to 73 percent. When asked about safety from hackers, the numbers drop further still, to only 60 percent.

The majority of participants (63 percent) said they've had a computer virus, and 85 percent had an anti-virus program installed on their PC. Yet detailed scanning of their computers revealed 67 percent either hadn't updated their virus protection in the past week, or had no anti-virus protection at all.

Security Perceptions
And Risks - Viruses
Do you currently have anti-virus software
on your computer? (from survey)
Yes 6%
No 44%
Don't Know 50%
Does the respondent currently have some
type of anti-virus software on their computer?
(from scan)
Yes (all users) 19%
No (all users) 81%
Yes (dial-up users) 25%
No (dial-up users) 75%
Yes (broadband users) 15%
No (broadband users) 85%
Of the users with self-protection, how often
do you generally update your anti-virus or
virus scanning software? (base: 276)
(from survey)
Weekly/daily (incl. automatically) 71%
Monthly 12%
Yearly 5%
Never 12%
When was the anti-virus or virus
scanning software on the respondent's
computer last updated? (from scan)
Within past week 33%
Within past month 34%
Within past six months 6%
Longer than six months 12%
No virus protection on computer 15%
Source: AOL/NCSA Online Safety Study, Oct 2004

The same perception gap was found when it comes to spyware. An overwhelming majority, 91 percent, of respondents had heard of spyware. As it turned out, 80 percent actually had some form of spy- or adware on their computers.

When queried about firewalls, 63 percent of respondents indicated they believed they had a firewall in place. Detailed scanning found only 33 percent actually had a firewall running on their PC.

"We did expect that perception wouldn't equal reality, but not to this degree," Ken Watson, chairman of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) told ClickZ. "When you compare the fact that three-quarters of people think that they are safe, and only two-thirds of them don't have anti-virus software, that's pretty surprising."

The inherent dangers of these gaps were also highlighted by the survey's results. Users are victimized by spy- and adware in a number of ways, including browser hijacks; home pages changed without permission (43 percent); and redirected search results (40 percent).

With so many apparent security issues prevalent on PC's, the AOL/NCSA survey further reveals most users either keep sensitive information (84 percent) or transact sensitive information online (72 percent), such as financial or health records.

While these finding may indeed indicate prevailing trends, the study involved only 329 "typical dial-up and broadband computer users." As such, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. The survey was almost evenly split between men (48 percent) and women (52 percent). A greater percentage of broadband users (59 percent) than dial-up subscribers (41 percent) participated in the study.

"When the car came along, extra speeds created more danger than people were used to, and now we've learned to look both ways before we cross the street," NCSA's Watson said. "I'd like to see consumers adopt that same kind of safe behavior online."

ClickZ Live San Francisco Revolutionize your digital marketing campaigns at ClickZ Live San Francisco! (August 10-12) Educating marketers for over 15 years, we return to San Francisco this August with our action-packed, educationally-focused agenda that will cover every aspect of digital marketing. Super Saver rates expire this Friday, June 5, so register today and save $500!


COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.



    • SEO Specialist
      SEO Specialist (HeBS Digital) - NEW YORK                             ...
    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...