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Americans Are Second Globally In Cybersecurity Knowledge

The study shows that the world’s online privacy and cybersecurity awareness is declining.

Note: TDWI’s editors carefully choose press releases related to the data and analytics industry. We have edited and/or condensed this release to highlight key information but make no claims as to its accuracy.

Americans are second in the world in terms of cybersecurity and internet privacy knowledge, according to new research by the cybersecurity company NordVPN. They performed best in recognizing various online risks and how to avoid them (76%) and worst in questions related to practices and tools to stay safe online (53%).

The annual National Privacy Test (NPT) is a global survey designed to evaluate people’s cybersecurity and online privacy awareness, and to educate the general public about cyber threats and the importance of data and information security in the digital age. It gathered 26,174 responses from 175 countries this year.

Here are the countries in the top 3 spots with the best internet privacy and cybersecurity awareness scores:

  1. Poland and Singapore (64/100)
  2. Germany and the United States (63/100)
  3. The United Kingdom, Austria, and Portugal (62/100)

However, results show that the world's online privacy and cybersecurity awareness is declining every year.

"With the growing complexity of online threats, it is not that surprising that the world's online privacy and cybersecurity awareness has been on the decline. Paradoxically, the more security solutions there are out there, the worse the results get every year. Raising awareness about the potential risks and educating users about best practices should be at the forefront of our efforts," says Marijus Briedis, CTO at NordVPN.

Americans Create Strong Passwords but Fail With Tools That Protect Digital Privacy

Research shows that Americans are good at creating strong passwords (95%) and dealing with suspicious streaming service offers (96%). They also know what kind of sensitive data they should avoid sharing on social media (92%) or the risks associated with saving their credit card details on their browser (88%).

However, only 3% of Americans are knowledgeable about online tools that protect digital privacy, and only one in 10 knows what data ISPs collect as part of their metadata. It seems that the “Joan is Awful” episode from Netflix’s show <i>Black Mirror</i> didn’t have the intended effect -- only one-third of Americans know the importance of reading terms of service for apps and online services. On the other hand, this is an improvement over 2021 (25% in 2021 vs. 36% in 2023).

Among the American people, 1% are Cyber Wanderers (barely know anything about internet privacy and cybersecurity); 18% scored 75-100 points and were identified as knowledgeable Cyber Stars.

How Americans’ Results Have Changed Since 2021

Compared to 2021, more Americans understand the importance of updating apps promptly. In 2021, 59% said they update an app as soon as an update is available; this year, it’s 66%. However, U.S. respondents may need to become more mindful of sharing their data with apps via permissions. According to the results, they share more than necessary.

Additionally, American participants (especially students) need to learn more about the digital privacy risks of working remotely.

Canadians Have Second-Highest Daily Digital Life Score

As for other Northern American countries, Canadian participants have the second-highest daily digital life score after Singapore and the best among participating English-speaking countries. However, Canada’s NPT score was 61%, compared to the U.S. score of 63%

Canadian respondents know what to do after receiving an unexpected email from their bank notifying them about a withdrawal. Canada was among the top-scoring countries for this question.

However, Canadians may need to educate themselves about app permissions and the digital risks associated with remote work. They have the most incorrect answers to these questions among all countries.

Global Internet Privacy Awareness Decreasing

The global NPT score hit 61% this year, which shows the decrease in the world’s online privacy and cybersecurity awareness, compared to 2022 (64%) and 2021 (66%).

Among the key global takeaways:

  • People aged 30-54 have the best cybersecurity skills, with most Cyber Stars in this age group.
  • Besides the IT sector, respondents from the finance and government industries got slightly higher NPT scores than others.
  • People still underestimate the importance of reading terms of service. However, this metric is improving faster than others.

“I think there are a few reasons why cybersecurity knowledge is declining globally. The first and the most important one might be the sheer volume of online activities and digital interactions that people engage in daily. Our previous research showed that Americans spend more than 21 years of their lifetime online. Second, as technology continues to advance, cybercriminals also adapt their tactics, making it challenging for the average user to keep up. Also, there is a common misconception that cybersecurity is solely the responsibility of service providers,” says Briedis.

Online Security and Privacy Can Be Improved

Briedis provides a list of steps people should follow to increase the privacy and safety of their online presence:

  • Use strong and unique passwords. Create strong passwords for each of your online accounts and avoid using the same password across multiple platforms.
  • Use multifactor authentication (MFA). Implementing multifactor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional verification, such as a one-time code sent to their phone, along with their password.
  • Update your software regularly. Keeping software, operating systems, and applications up to date is crucial for fixing known vulnerabilities. Regular updates ensure that security patches are applied promptly, reducing the risk of exploitation by cybercriminals.
  • Always use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet connection and helps protect your personal information from prying eyes. It is especially crucial when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Review and adjust privacy settings on social media platforms, mobile apps, and other online services. Limiting access to personal data and choosing the minimum required permissions can help protect privacy.

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