Concerns Over Online Threats This Holiday Season

Nearly six out of ten consumers (58 percent) are concerned enough about cyber security threats that they may reduce the amount of their online shopping this holiday season, according to a joint survey conducted by TNS and TRUSTe. That figure is up from the 49 percent number the same researchers reported one year ago.

The leading reasons cited by a nationally representative sample of 1,071 respondents for reducing or halting their online shopping were: concerns about identity theft; fear of credit card theft; concerns about spyware attacks; and receiving spam from a Web site after making an online purchase.

The Leading Reasons Cited by Those Reducing or Halting Online Shopping (%)
Identity theft concerns 52
Fear of credit card theft 44
Spyware 44
Receiving spam after online purchase 42
Source: TRUSTe

“The results show consumers have been paying attention to the onslaught of spyware, phishing, identity theft and credit card fraud,” said Fran Maeir, executive director of TRUSTe.

The poll also surveyed consumers regarding their level of comfort with online shopping at brand name stores versus smaller e-tailers. One third of respondents said they are less willing to buy from a smaller retailer online because of concerns that their personal information might be misused.

With a growing list of Internet assailants that includes worms, viruses, spyware, Trojan Horses, and various other kinds of “malicious code,” consumer awareness about cyber-security threats is growing. However, the survey also found that many people were still vulnerable to attacks.

In a portion of the survey not released to the public, over 60 percent of respondents said they either did not know how to protect their personal information online or do not consistently take the steps to do so.

Which of the following best describes you in terms of protecting your personal information online? (%)
I know how to protect my personal information online and consistently take the necessary steps to do so. 39.8
I know how to protect my personal information online but don’t consistently do so. 28.1
I don’t really know how to protect my personal information online. 32.0
Source: TNS

Sammy Migues, a security scientist for TruSecure, an online security company, said that even the 40 percent of respondents who think they are taking adequate steps to protect their personal information online are probably mistaken.

“The biggest problem is being visible,” Migues said, adding that the simplest step consumers can take to protect themselves online is to invest in a basic home firewall device.

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