Sunday, January 23

1 in 5 people are not protecting themselves against cyberattacks, are you one of them?

Protecting ourselves from dangers online is probably more important than ever, as we spend an increasing amount of time on our phones and computers.

However, a recent survey of 1,000 randomly selected people in the UK and US that we conducted with the real-time survey provider OnePulse revealed some shocking statistics about people’s cybersecurity habits, or lack thereof.

The research found that two-thirds of respondents use dedicated antivirus software, either free or paid, while just under one-third use a VPN service.

However, the really surprising figure is that more than 20% of those surveyed said they did not use any cybersecurity tools.

That means more than one in five people are exposed to any and all risks online without any means of specialized third-party online protection.

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The risks are real

Our dependence on the web gives criminals and malicious individuals a greater range to attack us, and the attacks we now face are much more slick and harder to detect.

“It’s easy to think that cybersecurity problems are primarily someone else’s problems,” says internal security specialist Mike Williams. “Most people have the mentality of ‘we are not doing anything important, no one is going to target us, we are very careful online, iPhones don’t get viruses anyway.’

“But the reality is that, whatever their situation, anyone can have security problems.

“Safety is much more than crossing your fingers and making a wish. There are many dangers, but protecting yourself is easy and, in many cases, you can do it for free.

While we may still receive dubious emails from long-lost millionaire relatives from time to time, we are now much more likely to see phishing and email scams posing as people closest to home, especially our employers. However, that is not all you need to worry about.

Graph showing how many respondents use certain tools as a percentage. (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

If you like to get out of the house and work in a coffee shop, there are also real problems with using public Wi-Fi. If the connection is not secure (and often it is not), then anyone with the right technology can see exactly what you are doing.

Downloading programs and files can also be a risky activity. We always recommend downloading the software directly from the provider’s website rather than from a separate online repository, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you have to download something from a site that you do not fully trust, precautions are essential.

For those who are into torrenting, the risk is even higher. Not only do you have to browse the illegal downloads, but P2P sharing allows anyone else to download or seed the same files.

(Image credit: future)

Antivirus as the first line of defense

It’s true that built-in protection has come a long way in recent years, but there is still no substitute for dedicated antivirus software. Essentially, antivirus software is active all the time and monitors the connections your device is making. All downloaded files are scanned and their safety is guaranteed.

While this doesn’t give you carte blanche to download anything without caution, it does give you peace of mind that if you are inadvertently exposed to malware, your antivirus should detect it and prevent it from damaging your device.

Some antivirus programs can also protect you from unreliable websites by blocking links and alerting you to dangers when browsing. Some people find this intrusive and can be turned off, but having the option is good.

If you are using a Windows PC or Mac, it is a good idea to have an active antivirus, whether you are a casual browser or a power user. Mobile devices are less likely to suffer from malware infections, but precautions are still worth taking, especially with an Android antivirus app.

Most of the basic plans with the big antivirus players only support one device, but upgrading to cover multiple devices with an internet security suite is not too expensive.

It is clear that people understand the importance of antivirus tools. With over 65% of respondents saying they are using one (either free or paid), most people are aware of the risks that come online; that can only be a good thing.

And what’s more, Microsoft Defender comes bundled with every Windows installation and is now much more robust than it used to be. This means that Windows users benefit from good protection often without realizing it.

Apple’s built-in offering isn’t as robust as Windows’, but the trade-off is that there is less malware targeting Macs. However, in both cases, for complete protection, it is often recommended to implement a premium solution of third parties for maximum protection.

(Image credit: future)

Often confused with antivirus software, though fewer are now becoming more mainstream, secure VPNs protect you in a different way online.

By using a VPN, it encrypts and hides all your internet traffic from anyone who is watching. At home, that is usually your Internet Service Provider (ISP). For many, preventing your ISP from spying on your activity is reason enough to invest in a VPN and of course also to access geoblocked streaming content and avoid censorship.

However, VPNs really stand out when you’re out and about, using public Wi-Fi networks. Found almost everywhere from trains to coffee shops, using a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network is a must because when you’re connected, your traffic can be intercepted. If you are using a banking application or entering your card details, it is best to err on the side of caution and take steps to protect your data.

Compared to the use of antivirus, VPNs are still a niche and only about 30% of respondents use them. While that makes sense to some extent, not everyone is concerned about staying anonymous or connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, we still believe that having access to the right tools when you need them is essential preventative protection.

The answer will not surprise you: to stay safe online, we recommend that you use all the forms of protection that you can. That means antivirus, a quality VPN, and regular checks with things like malware cleaning tools.

All of these can be found for free, and while a free VPN won’t offer everything a paid service might offer, if you’re just looking for quick protection, they get the job done, just make sure you pick a reputable provider!

Otherwise, the most valuable tool you can use is your common sense, regardless of what protections you have. If a link seems strange and your browser warns you that it is not safe, exit instead of accessing a potentially malware-infested site. You will save yourself a lot of hassle in the process.

What do we ask the respondents?

OnePulse is a gamified survey platform that sends short surveys to its users and returns the responses of the first 1000 respondents. Then those respondents receive a small payment of a few pennies.

We asked the question, ‘What cybersecurity software do you use to stay more secure and private online?’

We offer the eight answers below, and users can select all that apply. The proportions can be found in the graphical display of the results near the top of the page.

  • free antivirus)
  • Antivirus (paid)
  • VPN (free)
  • VPN (paid)
  • Malware protection tool
  • Hill
  • Attorney
  • None
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