Is lack of consumer awareness of cyber security costing companies?

The rapid digitisation of life, combined with rising cybercrime, has seen A third (30%) of UK adults experience an internet security breach in the past year alone, according to research from TeleSign. Most consumers appreciate internet security is a real concern; with 64% wanting businesses to do more about it and two thirds wanting to know how to be more secure online.

However, despite this growing tide of concern, consumers are making very little effort to be safer online. Free, and widely available, tools to prevent data breaches and stop fraudsters accessing online accounts are on the market, but their use is very limited.

Everyone, including businesses and consumers, needs to take responsibility for online safety and the industry can do its bit to champion that message.

Security – interest versus adoption

It’s undeniable that online data breaches are on the rise. The average cost of the worst breaches at large UK organisations is between £1.4 million and £3.14 million, according to the government’s 2015 information security breaches survey.

This is a rise of 233% to 273% from a year ago. If you open a newspaper these days, chances are you will find an article related to cybersecurity, fraud or data breaches. From customer data hacks involving companies like Target, to the theft of celebrities’ private files in the cloud; cybercrime is never far from the front page. 

> See also: Why bad passwords aren’t the problem

However, it’s not just a concern for big businesses; the latest research from TeleSign found that 30% of UK consumers had experienced a cybersecurity incident in the past year alone.

There is no doubt that this boom in cybercrime has impacted the way consumers perceive cyberspace. The vast majority of consumers (80%) said they were worried about online security and almost half (45%) about their accounts being hacked. Despite this concern, there is still a disconnect among consumers between their apprehension – and the adoption of digital security techniques

Consumers are extremely keen to be guided on how to be secure from the online properties they leverage. The majority (72%) would welcome advice on how to protect the security of their online accounts.

Moreover, 68% of consumers say they want online companies to provide an extra layer of security to protect their personal information. But even while consumers are concerned about being hacked and say they want to learn how to be more secure, the steps they take to protect themselves fall short of the mark.

For example, the take up of Two Factor Authentication (2FA) – a free, widely available and easily activated security solution which can help to prevent fraudsters from entering online accounts, even if they have a password – is extremely low, but growing.

Over half (61%) of consumers have not enabled it for any of their online accounts. Among the consumers not using 2FA, 56% are unfamiliar with it, 29% don’t know how to turn on 2FA and 29% say none of their online accounts offer 2FA. Of the 39% of consumers that do use 2FA, it’s mostly because the site required it (61%).

This is compounded by extremely bad practice with account passwords, with many users leveraging the same password across several accounts. For an average of 24 online accounts, consumers have just six passwords to protect them.

Duplicate passwords are common – with 73% of consumers relying on the same passwords for several accounts. Almost half (47%) are using a password that hasn’t been changed in five or more years and 77% have a password that is one year or older.

Between loose password habits and not using additional security, users neglect security advice in favour of convenience – leaving the online world at the mercy of cybercriminals.

Everyone is responsible

The internet is a place for everyone, so the fight on cybercrime shouldn’t be led by any one company or person. We’re all responsible – businesses, consumers and government organisation alike – for ensuring that the internet is a safe and secure place in which to which to do business, store data and connect with family and friends. Research has shown that consumers really do want to know how to be safer online and the resources to help them do this are already available.

> See also: How the new privacy-wise consumers are changing the playing field for brands

A safe cyberspace is going to come down to businesses and consumers communicating and working together to boost online security. The uptake of freely available security features, such as 2FA, will be a crucial part of that. Many companies have already taken the step of making these tools available to users. 

However, more users need to know how they can activate these features across online accounts; and be aware that more varied and complicated passwords are required.

The signs are promising as it’s clear that consumers are more open than ever to learning about the necessary precautions when it comes to protecting their data. With the right guidance and knowledge, their concerns can be crystallised into proper action.

Sourced from Andrew Tobin, Director of Identity Services, TeleSign

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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Cyber Security Breaches