The Price of Not Knowing

Study Finds “Alarming” Ignorance About Cybercrime
by: Jerry Liao

Not knowing that your computer has been compromised is a big problem. Not knowing that your computer can be compromised is even a bigger problem. How can you protect your system or find a solution to your system’s problem if you do not know what threats are out there. With the advancement of news reporting, you might think this is impossible. Well, we all better think again.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) announced study findings that 71 percent of consumers lack the knowledge on cyber criminals’ weapon of choice and the Internet’s fastest growing threat – botnets. This is quite alarming considering botnets are comprised mostly of consumers’ computers and are increasingly being used to perpetrate identity theft and spread viruses.

“Last June, the FBI identified more than one million computers infected with malware which could have been hijacked and used as part of an army of bots to attack other computers, spread malware, or attack our nation’s infrastructure,” said Ron Teixeira, executive director of the NCSA. “Botnets continue to be an increasing threat to consumers and homeland security. Consumers’ unsecured computers play a major role in helping cyber criminals conduct cyber crimes not only on the victim’s computer, but also against others connected to the Internet.”

The study also reveals that Americans are largely unaware their computer’s security plays a role in our nation’s security and preventing online crime. A majority of respondents think it is not likely their computer could affect homeland security while only 51 percent think it is possible for a hacker to use their computer to launch cyber attacks.

“It is alarming that consumers do not know how to secure their computers,” said Teixeira. “It is important for consumers to understand that safe cyber security practices not only protect them from identity theft, but also prevent cyber crime and attacks. By taking simple steps, consumers can protect themselves from cyber crimes and join our effort to protect other Internet users.”

Compelling findings from the study include:
– 71 percent have never heard the phrase “botnet” – the weapon of choice for cyber criminals
– 59 percent think it is not likely their computer could affect homeland security
– 47 percent believe it is not possible for a hacker to use your computer to launch cyber attacks or crimes against other people, businesses and our nation
– 51 percent have not changed their password in the past year
– 48 percent do not know how to protect themselves from cyber criminals
– 46 percent of consumers are not sure of what to do if they became a victim of a cyber crime

2,249 online consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 were surveyed using the online panel managed by Harris Interactive. The panel is widely regarded as statistically reflective of the general U.S. online population. The interviews were conducted with randomly selected U.S. consumers.

Althought the survey was done in the U.S., I find this study alarming. For the simple reason that the U.S. is considered one of the most, if not the most advance country when it comes to information technology. And yet, the study reveals that most of its citizens are not aware of the threats that are existing.

If the same survey is done in other countries or Asian countries, there is big possibility that the results will even be higher. Which means we in the media industry and those who are in the I.T. industry should work doubly hard to inform the public about the dangers lurking around the I.T. world.

A well-informed consuming public is I think the best defense to cyberthreats and cybercrimes.

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