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.”

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