RealTime IT News

Poll: Americans Fear Cyber Attacks

Poll results released this week indicate that more than 70% of Americans don't have much confidence in the government's ability to adequately protect against attacks on the Internet and computer systems.

The report is the latest manifestation of Americans' insecurity in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. As corporations invest heavily in security to protect their systems, there may be a lesson for them: Calming fears could be good for business. Understand your customers' fears and use this opportunity to communicate that your infrastructure and data protection is an important part of your overall focus in IT.

According to the poll of 800 adults at the end of November by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and security software firm Tumbleweed Communications, 74% of Americans fear their personal information on the Internet could be stolen or used for malicious purposes.

Similarly, 74% said they're concerned that cyber attacks could target critical infrastructure assets like telephone networks or power plants.

ITAA President Harris N. Miller said the terrorist attacks "destroyed lives and property. They also destroyed peace of mind for many people using the Internet. In an era of great uncertainty, a perceived lack of Internet security is generating high anxiety in cyberspace. These survey findings tell me that government, industry and computer users must work together to slam the lid on cyber criminals, terrorists and hackers and to restore the faith of the online community."

Among the results of the survey:

  • 35% of Americans are "very concerned" about Internet and computer security and 36% are "somewhat concerned."
  • 33% are "very worried" about their personal information on the Internet being stolen or misused; 41% are "somewhat worried."
  • 78% are either "very" or "somewhat" concerned that their government-held personal information could be misused.
  • 74% are worried about terrorists using the Internet to launch cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure.
  • 17% expressed "complete faith" in the ability of the U.S. government to prevent cyber attacks against agencies, 54% have "some" faith and 17 percent said they have "very little faith."
  • Only 17% of respondents expressed "complete faith" in the ability of the U.S. government to prevent cyber attacks against its agencies; 54% said they have "some" faith and 17 percent said they have "very little faith."
  • Few of those surveyed appear concerned that their e-mail will be subject to government sleuthing. Only 10% said they are "a lot more" concerned about federal authorities monitoring or reading their e-mail, while 14 percent said they are "somewhat more" concerned.
  • Following the Anthrax mailings, e-mail has not become a replacement for paper mail. Only 3% have made a significant shift to e-mail to avoid paper mail.

"This survey reinforces the concern and heightened awareness for security in all forms of communication including e-mail and transactions via the Internet," said Jeffrey C. Smith, chairman and CEO of Tumbleweed. "Americans are much more aware and concerned about information on the Internet being misused."