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After surveying more than 10,000 people in 50 states about their cybersecurity habits, we wound up with some pretty surprising results. Like the fact that tech experts demonstrate riskier behaviors than average Americans. But the most significant result of all was the fact that most Americans are more confident than they should be when it comes practicing good cyber hygiene. So, we thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight a few of the riskiest behaviors from the report and suggest ways to correct them and minimize your chances of falling for a cyberattack.

Small business owners beware

  • The problem – It’s not easy being a home-based business owner. Also known as very small businesses (VSBs), they’re often too busy and stretched thin just running their businesses. They often lack the time and resources to do everything they should to protect their important business files from online threats.
  • Risky habits – Around 80% of VSB owners use the same device for both work and personal use. In addition, 71% use the same password for their personal and business accounts, putting both their personal life and company at risk.
  • The fix Owning separate devices for personal and small business use can be cost-prohibitive. But you can enforce better security by partitioning business files on your hard drive and creating a secure password to access those files. Make sure that password is different from any you’re using for personal use. Again, easier said than done in today’s world of password proliferation. If you’re struggling keeping track of all your passwords, consider using a password management app, especially for business files.

Knowing is half the battle

  • The problem – There is a gap between awareness and real understanding of cyber-related attacks. Most Americans can confidently explain phone scams but are not as equipped to explain malware or phishing. This indicates that Americans may not be as prepared to confront risks as they think.
  • Risky habits – Americans who never read the news are 70% less likely to recognize malware, phishing, ransomware or crypto-mining, and 51% less likely to be able to confidently explain these risks. Compare this with 89% of Americans who consistently consume technology news and can confidently explain common cybersecurity risks.
  • The fix Not everyone can afford security awareness training, but if you’re a business, consider the cost and consequences of a data breach to your business. Regular security awareness training can significantly increase your ability to identify and prevent a malware or phishing attack. If you’re a consumer or VSB owner, you can easily find free sources of cybersecurity news (like this one!). As the report shows, being a regular reader of tech news can significantly raise your awareness and reduce your risk.

Digital defense and immunity

  • The problem – One in five Americans say they’ve been impacted by malware in the past year. While 61% of Americans say they’ve not been impacted, 18% aren’t sure. And with only 32% of Americans who feel they understand cyber-related attacks, it’s likely that many more have been impacted and just don’t know it.
  • Risky habit – Many businesses and users haven’t updated their defenses. They haven’t updated their antivirus protection to include cloud-based threat intelligence, AI and machine-learning (ML). Or they’re failing to install necessary patches to plug holes in applications. And they’re still running obsolete operating systems, like Windows 7 or Server 2008, leaving them highly exposed.
  • The fix – For today’s advanced threats, you need multiple layers of protection, including advanced antivirus as well as backup. Having just one of these layers is not enough. Perimeter protection with AI/ML functionality is critical for identifying polymorphic code that changes with each device it seeks to infect. Backup is essential for mitigating phishing attacks and disaster scenarios. Cybercriminals can also identify outdated operating systems. So, it’s worth the extra cost to update them, even if the hardware they’re running on is still functioning normally.

Identity theft

  • The problem – Poor cybersecurity often leads to identity theft. Failing to wipe a device before discarding it is one problem. So is sharing personal information on social media and video streaming sites. The more hackers know about you, the easier it is for them to impersonate you online.
  • Risky habits – A quarter of Americans have had their identity stolen, including 8% who have been a victim of identity theft more than once. Twice as many people who use mobile banking apps have been victims compared with those who don’t. Across industries, those in technology, banking and automotive are most likely to become victims of identity theft.
  • The fix – Cover your tracks wherever you go. Erase the contents on a device before discarding it. Beware of the personal information you reveal on social media. And be careful when using banking apps and websites. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) when using the app. If you’re using the bank’s website, go directly to it by typing the URL into your browser, or use a bookmark that you trust and have used before. Be careful when searching or googling the bank’s name, which could return a spoof site in the top results.

Something phishy

  • The problem – We knew phishing was a problem. In fact, it may be even bigger than our results indicate. A lot of users don’t know how to identify phishing scams. You can’t protect yourself from threats you don’t see coming.
  • Risky habits – According to the report, 36% of respondents claim to have fallen for a phishing scam. But more enlightening is that only 35% claim to know how to identify a phishing attack. Similar to the lack of understanding about cyber-related attacks in general, the report seems to indicate that phishing is far more prevalent than the data indicate.
  • The fix Learn the tricks of the phishing trade, like bogus URLs and emails that ask you to confirm personal and banking information. Remember, bank logos can be easily faked. And banks won’t typically reach out to you for information they already have on file. If someone claiming to be from a bank contacts you by phone, call them back on an authentic customer service number from one of your banking statements.

Where to learn more

Want to read the complete 2020 state-by-state results? You can download a copy here. If you have any questions about improving your cyber security habits, feel free to reach out to us.

Tyler Moffitt

About the Author

Tyler Moffitt

Security Analyst

Tyler Moffitt is a Security Analyst who stays deeply immersed within the world of malware and antimalware. He is focused on improving the customer experience through his work directly with malware samples, creating antimalware intelligence, writing blogs, and testing in-house tools.

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