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Americans Want Uncle Sam's Help With Cybercrime Protection

New Eset/Harris Interactive poll finds most U.S. online adults feel vulnerable to a cyberattack
At a time when the federal government's oversight is under hot debate politically, it turns out that most Americans want the feds to have a role in fighting cybercrime and protecting their online identities.

That's one of the findings of a recent Eset/Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,200 online adults in the U.S. The poll found that 91 percent of them feel vulnerable to some type of cyberattack, and 84 percent believe the feds have some responsibility in protecting their online identities. Two-thirds say a cyberattack on a U.S. government agency and its website would constitute an act of war.

Dan Clark, vice president of marketing for Eset North America, says some 91 percent were "concerned" about cyberattacks. "That's a huge number," Clark says. "They are concerned, and they are aware there is a problem ... they know that it's not just something to consider as a nuisance."

And in an era where some groups are calling for smaller government, the survey found that the number of people who want government to protect them from cybercrime has increased during the past year. In 2010, 65 percent felt that government should have a role in combating cybercrime, so this year's responses "jumped considerably," Clark says.

Ninety-six percent of the respondents say they have some responsibility for the safety of their online data, while 97 percent say the organizations who hold that data also do.

More than half say the recent wave of large data breaches at financial institutions and other organizations has resulted in a decrease of their trust that these firms can protect their personal data.

And 91 percent say they think that cybersecurity education should be part of a student's curriculum.

Eset's Clark says he was most surprised that so many adults look to the feds to help protect the online community. "It says that people recognize defense as something that fundamentally can't be addressed just by the users," he says. "Policy-makers need to pay attention to this."

That raises another issue, Clark says: Cybercrime isn't just a U.S. problem -- it's a global one. "It's not enough just to strengthen U.S. laws and policies. It requires collaboration and coordination between governments," he says. "And some countries are markedly absent" in this process, he says.

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