Identity Theft still a chief concern for the average Web user

Is someone using your face? Image: xenia antunes/Flickr.

A recent survey of typical Internet users, using a sample size of 1,200 people aged between 18 and 55, has shown that the overwhelming majority are concerned by the prospect of falling foul of Identity Theft.

The survey was conducted by California-based Kindsight, a company that provides Identity Theft protection to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and their customers. Kindsight has a nifty little niche, as its offering is embedded inside ISP networks, and it also has partnerships with industry giants like McAfee and the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Kindsight’s data revealed that the majority of the respondents, 81 percent to be exact, had already found some type of Malware installed on their systems. And, of those who reported infection, 29 percent said it had happened within the last three months.

At the same time, less than 60 percent of those who reported infection said they have updated their security software, and just over half enabled other security measures such as a hardware-based or software-based firewall.

This apparent lack of security awareness is in contrast to the awareness and concern given to the common factor of infection, data collection that can lead to Identity Theft.

Mostly, the top concerns given during the survey centered on Identity Theft, as it relates to stolen banking or credit information, as well as other potentially damaging personal information. Some 65 percent of those polled said they were worried about this type of loss.

At the same time, while clearly worried about the prospect of ID theft, they still admitted to falling short when it comes to implementing basic security measures designed to prevent them from becoming victims.

Data like this shows a need for some type of awareness where system maintenance and safe surfing practices are concerned. Ensuring that operating system patches are applied and security software is updated is a great start, but users must layer that with basic information on how to surf the Web safely and avoid common gimmicks and scams. Then there could be some improvement.

The question is how that can be accomplished? There are awareness initiatives being discussed, both in private and through government sectors, but they are still in the early stages of development, and this is an issue that has been around for many years already.

Awareness campaigns and common sense information help, the proof resides in the fact that Identity Theft is as common as locking your doors and never talking to strangers. So how can they be expanded?

Give us your thoughts. What would you do to increase awareness for the typical Internet user that has little-to-no basic understanding of security? How would you encourage safe surfing and system maintenance?

On the other side of the coin, is awareness even worth it? If you don’t think it is, feel free to explain why there are better ways to deal with the issue.

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