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Symantec Study Shows Consumers Suffer From Security Overload

New survey finds that consumers are overwhelmed by the need to protect their devices from cybercriminals.

First it was online-information overload. Now it's security overload.

A new survey released today by Symantec found that while 79% of consumers know they must actively protect their information online, 44% felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data they are now responsible for protecting.

"Technology changes so quickly and those of us in the industry keep throwing new technology at them," says Kevin Haley, director of security response at Symantec. "And I don’t know if we always make it easier for people to understand."

While millennials tend to be sloppier about security today, Haley says he expects that as they grow older, they will become more cautious about security and unlike many of their parents, have the technical skills to keep their devices safe.

The study, "Norton Cyber Security Insights Report," points out that hackers see new technologies as opportunities. They continue to hone their craft and adapt scams to take advantage of consumers. Cybercriminals launched more than one million Web attacks against Internet users every day in 2015, according to the International Society for Third-Sector Research, Symantec's report says.

Consumers also tend to be naïve about the security of connected devices. According to the Symantec study, 39% of consumers don’t think there are enough connected device users for them to be a worthwhile target. And more than six in 10 consumers believe connected home devices are designed with security in mind, when the reality is that only top-tier companies such as Philips Lighting now design IoT products with security in mind.

Haley recommends that users:

1.      Don't share passwords. Roughly 25% of those surveyed share passwords for email and social media. Haley says people don’t always understand that it’s not necessarily their site or specific device, but all the sites that they use that can be exposed when they share a password.  

2.      Fear the phish. The Norton study found that 84% of consumers say they likely experienced a phishing scam in the past year, but 19% of them took a compromising action such as responding with personal details or clicking links. More companies now have programs in which employees are trained on what phishing emails look like, and then the IT staff sends out phishing emails periodically and employees are graded on how well they identify the phishing emails. Many companies also have contests where employees win prizes for forwarding phishing emails to the IT staff.

3.      Lock down home routers.  Consumers can start by changing the default password on their home routers, and then ask if updates are available for their routers. Many of the routers stay in homes close to four years and they run old versions of Linux. While for today it’s fine simply to change the default password, moving forward, consumers are going to need to be aware of router updates. Whether they are done remotely by the service provider or periodically by the home user remains to be seen.

4.      Beware of public Wi-Fi networks. Norton found that one in three consumers never runs a VPN while using a public Wi-Fi network. Users are less apt to install a VPN client on their laptops, even though VPN clients typically come as an add-on to antivirus software. VPNs encrypt and protect user traffic from sniffing and highjacking by attackers.

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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