Consumers take few steps to safeguard online privacy – survey

By Erin Ayers on June 25, 2014

online_privacyDespite one in seven consumers receiving notice of the breach of their personal information, few are doing anything to protect themselves online, according to a recent survey from Consumer Reports.

Sixty-two percent of online consumers in the nation say they’ve taken no steps to ensure their privacy, the survey revealed. Now is the time to act, with data breaches occurring nearly weekly (up 56 percent from 2012) and e-mail phishing scams were up 22 percent from 2012, Consumer Reports said, with an estimated 11.2 million fell victim to e-mail scams.

“The most effective defense against an international onslaught of shadowy hackers is being a well-informed and vigilant individual,” said Glenn Derene, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “It should be clear by now that consumers can’t rely solely on institutions to safeguard their valuable personal information online. Our report identifies some tools that can help people shut the door on cybercriminals.”

The threat of cybercrime is “nearly omnipresent,” according to Consumer Reports, as individuals use public Wi-Fi networks, store important files in the cloud, or even at their home computer.

Consumer Reports identified nine vulnerable spots for online consumers, including cloud services. The report found that popular cloud service Dropbox experienced several breaches in recent years and hackers hit Evernote last year, exposing the user names and e-mail addresses of around 50 million users.

“Information stored in the cloud is only as secure and accessible as the cloud provider makes it. Consumers who store private information on cloud-based service should encrypt it with a free encryption program,” asserted Derene. “If a breach occurs, hackers won’t be able easily read that data.”

The survey was based on responses from 3,110 adults with a home Internet connection, according to Consumer Reports.'

Erin is the managing editor of Advisen’s Front Page News. She has been covering property-casualty insurance since 2000. Previously, Erin served as editor-in-chief of The Standard, New England’s Insurance Weekly. Erin is based in Boston, Mass. Contact Erin at [email protected].