Whether they hit or they miss, they’re still hurting people. Now, about half of the Web-browsing households in the U.S. have been deterred from expressing opinions and taking care of business online.
( Sean Gallup | Getty Images )
About half of U.S. households, with an active Internet user, have been putting off posting opinions, sharing on social media, banking and buying goods online, according to a new survey from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That’s the effect, and the cause is cybersecurity.
The survey involves 41,000 households that had at least one Internet user and the U.S. Census Department collected the survey data on the NTIA’s behalf.
The survey asked about the respondent’s Internet use in the past 12 months. Did they use online banking? Buy goods online? Post on social networks? Or express a controversial opinion online?
About 45 percent of the respondents indicated that they had dropped one of the aforementioned activities over concerns about privacy and security. And in all, about 84 percent of all of the households surveyed expressed some fears over privacy and cybersecurity.
“Privacy and security concerns deterred each of these important activities in millions of households, and this chill on discourse and economic activity was even more common among online households that either had experienced an online security breach or expressed two or more major concerns about privacy and security risks,” states the NTIA.
About 40 percent of the households that reported being victims of breaches indicated that they had stopped banking online as a result. About 35 percent of them stopped shopping online and posting on social networks, while about 26 percent of them refrained from expressing controversial opinions on the Internet.
Beyond worrying Americans, security and privacy issues could hurt the free expression of ideas and hamper economic growth, the NTIA stated.
“NTIA’s initial analysis only scratches the surface of this important area, but it is clear that policymakers need to develop a better understanding of mistrust in the privacy and security of the Internet and the resulting chilling effects,” said the NTIA.
Until a solution is found, things are only going to get worse. There were more than a million new malware threats launched every day in 2014, Symantec said.
And there is, on average, one zero-day attack launched every week of the year. Zero-day attacks are vulnerabilities that are exploited before the software engineers are even aware of the flaws.
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