Canadians confused about online security

The internet is a daily part of the lives of most Canadians. We access it on our computers, tablets and mobile phones on a regular basis – but are we being safe when we open up our information to the world wide web?

A new study by Norton Security shows that over three quarters of Canadians are confused when it comes to online security.

The results of the survey shed light on how Canadians view their online privacy, and the difference between how the boomers treat their information online compared to younger generations.

The survey asked respondents if they would accept $1 million dollars in exchange for allowing strangers full access to their computers, and 68 per cent said they would not.

A surprising 77 per cent said they were confused about online security solutions and what exactly they need to protect themselves against online, and 60 per cent admit to falling victim to cybercrime.

More than one third (37 per cent) of Canadians believe basic security software is enough to protect them online, and 23 per cent say their smartphones do not need security software at all.

The survey found that Millennials (those aged 18 to 31) take the most risks online, with 62 per cent admitting to using free security products, and 44 per cent feeling that being careful online is enough to protect them – despite 92 per cent reporting they have dealt with computer viruses and malware, 70 per cent having experienced social networking cybercrime, and 34 per cent experiencing identity theft. They were also most likely to give up access to their computer for $1 million dollars (49 per cent).

50PLUS asked Lynn Hargrove, Director of Consumer Solutions at Symantec Canada, a few questions about the survey and how we can better protect ourselves online:

What do you think makes the 50+ crowd value their digital information more than younger generations?

While there’s no hard-hitting scientific evidence on this one, this may be as simple as the old adage – with age comes wisdom.

While Zoomers are increasingly turning to the internet to connect with family and friends through email and social networking sites, do their online banking and even conduct business, they didn’t grow up in the days of instantaneous communication – which may contribute to their stronger sense of personal privacy. On the other hand, using the internet, social networking and mobile devices has always been a part of Millennials’ daily lives, which is likely why they’re more comfortable sharing their personal details online. Younger people may not understand the consequences of this, as well as falling victim to a cybercrime, or even of having their identity stolen, the same way older Canadians would.

Our survey showed that older Canadians valued privacy more than Millennials. However, 37 per cent of Canadians thought that “being careful” online was all the protection they needed against cyber threats. Clearly this isn’t the case, as 60 per cent of our survey respondents – across all age groups – have experienced a cybercrime. Given the complexity of online threats today, it is important that we all understand the risks and how to protect ourselves from them.

What is the biggest internet safety mistake people make online?

All too often people use weak passwords and/or use the same passwords for all of their online accounts. This is risky, because if a hacker gets a hold of one password in one location, they gain control of all of them – and with it, access to all of your online accounts. Recent security breaches on popular social networking sites like LinkedIn have put the spotlight on passwords – the foundation of online security.

To help protect you online, it’s important to create strong, unique passwords. They should be at least seven characters, contain a number or symbol, and should not include dictionary words or names. However, make sure it’s still something you can remember (without writing it on a sticky note!). Never share your passwords with anyone and avoid storing login credentials using the “remember password” feature on your Web browser. Last – and certainly not least – don’t forget to password protect your tablets and mobile devices!

What are some of the most important tips for staying safe online?

In addition to creating strong passwords, there are a number of things people can do to stay safe online. Here are just a few, but you can find a complete list on the Norton website.

  • In Wi-FI spots, manually select the networks you join; turn off file sharing and never send anything private over IM or email; use a secure network – otherwise avoid banking and conducting other sensitive online transactions.
  • Stick to trusted websites. Many browsers will turn their address bar to the colour green to indicate the site is authentic. You should also look for a trust mark, such as the oration: Norton Secured Seal, which demonstrates that a trusted company has taken comprehensive measures to certify security, online business ethics and customer privacy standards.
  • When conducting transactions online, make sure the website address contains “https” instead of “http,” which indicates an added layer of protection.
  • Limit the amount of sensitive personal information stored on your computer.
  • Don’t click on attachments from strangers; also, watch out for offers that seem too good to be true.
  • Don’t risk your personal safety by revealing too much on a social networking profile.
  • In addition to your PC, don’t forget to use reputable security software for your mobile and tablet devices. Always be sure to lock your phone – it will make it less valuable to a thief and deny him or her access to personal information stored on your SIM card.
Photo © Henrik Jonsson

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