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Consumers Trust Retailers' Security The Least

Global survey of consumers shows U.S. consumers as most security-savvy
Consumers in the U.S. trust retailers, government, and banks less than consumers in other countries, a new survey conducted by IBM Guardium found. And, overall, retailers are the least trusted entity in the world, while government is the most.

"The U.S. seems to have the most security-savvy consumers, which is probably due, in part, to our breach disclosure laws, which don't exist yet in most parts of the world outside the U.S. For example, consumers in the U.K. and France seem more concerned about giving their credit card details over the phone to retailers, when, in fact, the biggest risks are online," says Phil Neray, vice president of security strategy for IBM Guardium, which polled 800 American, British, French, and German consumers.

Nearly 80 percent of the respondents are either "concerned" or "very concerned" about the security of their credit card information. Nearly 55 percent of U.S. consumers said they were more likely to become victims of identity theft than car theft, while two-thirds of British consumers worry that the banks can protect their financial data from rogue insiders. Meanwhile the Brits consider banks the "most trusted" organizations over government and retail.

"What I found most surprising is that the concept of identity theft has firmly entered the consumer psyche -- on a par with street crimes like car theft -- and this is a uniquely 21st century phenomenon," Neray says. "Sure, we've gotten accustomed to receiving new cards from our credit card companies every month or two, and that may have something to do with it. Plus the story of Albert Gonzales and his 'biggest cybercrime in history' has been widely reported in the mainstream media.

"The bottom line is that a lot of consumers are now familiar with identity theft, even if most can't even spell 'SQL injection.'"

Nearly 90 percent of French consumers consider retailers the least trusted protector of their financial and other data, followed by 64 percent of German consumers and 38 percent of U.S. consumers.

Only 2 percent of British consumers said they have "complete trust" in their government to keep their data safe, while 40 percent of U.S. customers said they have the "most confidence" in government agencies to protect their information.

Banks fared better in Germany, where 44 percent of consumers said they trust banks over government and retail. That's in contrast to the British respondents.

The survey also showed consumers are more worried about their social security numbers than their credit card data -- but, in reality, credit card theft is a bigger black market today, Neray says. "Credit card theft is much more scalable than PII theft because it's a lot easier for cybercriminals to steal millions of payment card numbers and then send runners in Eastern Europe or Asia to withdraw lots of cash from ATMs over a weekend, compared to using individual social security numbers to open new charge accounts and apply for mortgages, as with identity theft," he says.

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