The Nation’s Cyber Security Has Americans Very Worried (Part 1)
This is a three-part series based on primary research we conducted in Spring 2020. This survey of approximately 250 U.S. consumers was conducted to understand Americans’ top concerns just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting.
In part one, we share what consumers think about cybersecurity and responsibility. In part two, we look at what individuals are doing to protect themselves. In part three, we present our conclusions and insights based on the data and some parting food for thought as we move forward in a world that will look very different in the months and years to come.
If there’s little else that now seems abundantly clear, our pandemic response, national security, even our response to climate change, rely on data technology. It is essential for our future.
Protecting these digital resources – in both the public and private sector – should be our top priority. Despite this, the government and corporations put cybersecurity on their list of acceptable risks – balancing the loss against the cost.
Americans are worried about cybersecurity.
When it comes to protecting our digital infrastructure, Americans know we aren’t doing enough. They perceive it both as a national emergency and a personal threat to their safety.
While the media and many in government focus on disinformation and the harm it poses to our elections, respondents seem to understand cyber threats can have a much larger impact to our national safety. Using U.S. Homeland Security’s list of threats facing America, cyberattacks topped the list of threats that concerned the respondents, more so than terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, disinformation, climate and transportation attacks.
Now in a post-COVID world — where people rely on technology more than ever to stay connected in their personal and business lives — the well-documented escalation of cyber-attacks reiterates that that the cyber threat is unlikely to disappear from America’s top concerns.
Americans see near-term threats to key infrastructure.
When asked about what presents a near-term threat, respondents said they worry most about cyberattacks on our infrastructure, with 27% of respondents naming it their top concern. Cyberattacks on corporations and banking ranked second with 26%. Consumers understand the U.S. is vulnerable across many vectors.
As we drilled down to look at specific cyber vulnerabilities, 50% of survey respondents cited attacks on our energy systems, like electricity, natural gas and fossil fuel supply, as their biggest concern, while 43% cited interference in our financial systems (banking, stock market), and 39% cited interference in our food supply.
Americans want to understand where the buck stops when it comes to cybersecurity.
While disinformation garners the spotlight, Americans understand it’s just one aspect of a larger set of problems we face with cybersecurity. They are worried about our infrastructure, national security, their personal identity and their data-based financial security. They are frustrated because they don’t know who to hold accountable and if they’re truly protected.
While Americans are engaged and doing their best to secure their digital lives, they don’t know what to do beyond the basics. Often called the Layer 8 problem, our research shows consumers are at least trying to do their best when it comes to cybersecurity. But as the concentric rings of responsibility move outward, their confidence declines and their concerns about their personal welfare increase.
Americans ultimately hold the government and law enforcement responsible for cybersecurity.
More than two-thirds of respondents (70%) believe both the non-military arm of our government and law enforcement (70%) are responsible for the nation’s cybersecurity. More than half (51%) also hold corporations responsible with 30% holding non-government organizations and 29% holding military responsible.
In part two, we look at what individuals are doing to protect themselves. For more on the survey, click here to download the report.
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