Let’s begin by imagining a normal day at work. It’s likely that you are using the internet to share important data across your team and with your clients. In the middle of your workflow you get a push notification prompting you to update your computer’s software. You’re busy so you elect to do it later, knowing in the back of your mind that you won’t get around to it for a few weeks at least. Since it’s the holiday season, you decide to do some online shopping during your lunch break. You make a couple purchases, all from sites with HTTP credentials.
At the end of the day, you clear any valuables off your desk and lock your office. Because it’s winter, it’s already dark outside so you’re mindful of your surroundings. You can never be too careful, right? When you get home, you take your keys out of your car and lock it. Before bed, you make sure all the doors and windows are shut and locked. Then you settle into your bed feeling safe and sound — sleep comes quickly.
But, are you really safe? You’re physically secure, but your actions throughout the day have rendered you vulnerable to cyberattacks.
When sharing data across the internet, it’s important to use a virtual private network (VPN) so that your information travels in a secured tunnel. This way you use the internet anonymously and no one can access the data. Failing to update your software right away can make it easy for hackers and malware to find their way into your system. For example, the infamous Equifax data breach could have been prevented had they updated their software two months prior. Finally, conducting transactions on HTTP versus HTTPS sites can put your financial information at risk. Only HTTPS pages secure your data by encrypting communications.
The story described above incorporates normal happenings in many American lives. Panda Security recently conducted a study in order to find out just how much, if anything, Americans know about basic internet safety. The answer is not much.
Less than half of Americans surveyed know what a VPN is. Of those that do, 40% still don’t use one. Near 60% of Americans fail to update their computer as soon as possible. Furthermore, 50% of those surveyed think that neither HTTP nor HTTPS are safe for shopping when HTTPS is actually secure.
It’s important that we have, at a minimum, a basic understanding of online safety. The visual below describes the results of the study and how you can improve your internet security.