Study: Americans Don’t Know How to Protect Their Online Data

Conor Cawley

Technology is a double edged sword. While it allows you to keep in contact with friends, check the weather in an instant, and watch more television series than should ever be allowed, it also opens up startups, corporations, and everyday citizens to cyber attacks and hacks that could result in millions of dollars in losses. And with all that on the line, you'd think people would understand the importance of protecting your online data. Unfortunately, you couldn't be more wrong.

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, Americans are wildly uninformed about the means by which they can protect themselves from hackers itching to steal their personal online data. In a thirteen-question survey, Americans were tested on their knowledge of a number of cybersecurity issues and terms. And they didn't do very well.

It is worth noting that most Americans aren't doing anything wrong. They aren't misinformed about how to protect their online data from potential hackers, rather they aren't informed at all. As you can see from the above graph, the most common response to most answers was “not sure,” pointing to a general lack of information opposed to misinformation.

“Although the share of online adults who can correctly answer questions about cybersecurity issues varies from topic to topic, in most cases the share providing an actual incorrect answer is relatively small,” wrote the authors of the study. “Rather, many users indicate that they simply are not sure of the correct answer to a large number of the questions in this survey.”

With questions ranging from email encryption and WiFi traffic to free credit reports and private browsing, it's no wondering Americans are struggling to keep up. The cybersecurity sector is as broad as it is vital, making everyday citizens confused, overwhelmed, and downright annoyed. However, if you are truly committed to making sure you are protected from malware, hacks, ransomware, and any other type of cyber attack, understanding these questions is the first step in ensuring your digital safety.

Photo: Flickr / Blue Coat Photos

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Conor is the Senior Writer for For the last five years, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His extensive background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host tech-centric events like Startup Night at SXSW and the Timmy Awards for Tech in Motion. You can email Conor at

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