Fearing a ‘Cyber Attack’


While some people blithely put all sorts of personal information online, a seven-country Financial Times/Harris Poll finds plenty of others worried about what might happen to their data.

One question in the survey (conducted online last month) asked people to say how concerned they are “about the amount and security of personal online data that can be accessed by search engines you use.” In the U.S., 24 percent said they’re “very concerned” about this. The “very concerned” tally was higher in China (26 percent), but a bit lower in Spain (24 percent) and France (23 percent). It was lower still in Britain and Germany (17 percent each), and lowest of all in Italy (11 percent). Adding in the “somewhat concerned” votes, Germany and Italy were the only countries in which a majority of respondents didn’t voice at least that much worry about this matter.

China again had the highest “very concerned” vote (31 percent) when respondents were asked how much they worry about the amount and security of data that can be accessed by their Internet service provider. Spain was the runner-up (29 percent), followed by the U.S. and France (26 percent each), Britain (20 percent), Germany (19 percent) and Italy (12 percent). Here again, Italy and Germany were the only countries in which the “very” and “somewhat” concerned constituencies didn’t add up to a majority.

When the survey introduced the specter of “cybercriminals and hackers,” worry grew even higher in all seven countries. Majorities in the U.S. (55 percent), Spain (56 percent) and China (53 percent) declared themselves “very concerned” about personal data being accessed by such miscreants, and more than four in 10 said the same in France (45 percent) and Britain (42 percent). Italy (34 percent) and Germany (31 percent) were the laggards when it came to this degree of concern about cybercriminals and hackers.

Amid all this worry, are people cautious about “the security of my personal data/details online”? While majorities in six counties claimed they are, large minorities conceded that they “should be much more careful about the security of my personal data/details online.” In the U.S., 61 percent said they’re “careful enough,” while 32 percent said they “should be much more careful.” (The rest weren’t sure.) The “careful enough” vote was lowest by far in China (26 percent). In Europe, it ranged from 70 percent in Britain down to 58 percent in Spain.

Whether cautious or not, many people expect something bad will happen to them online. In the U.S., 31 percent expect they will be “a victim of some kind of cyber attack in the next five years.” Thirty-eight percent do not expect to be victimized in this fashion, and the other 31 percent aren’t sure. The expectation of becoming a victim of a “cyber attack” is highest in China (34 percent) and lowest in Italy (11 percent).

Another part of the survey found many respondents identifying social media as a danger spot when it comes to online security. Asked to say whether each of several security issues “applies to you personally,” 62 percent in the U.S. agreed that “Social sites like Facebook and Twitter make many people vulnerable to cyber attacks.” In Europe, this concern was highest in Spain (66 percent) and lowest in Britain (53 percent). It was considerably lower in China (39 percent).

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