British Online Behavior and How the People Feel About Their Security
Nearly 1 in 10 British males and 1 in 7 British females have faced some sort of online harassment or cyberstalking. Over 30% of men and women have received unsolicited explicit images online. And yet, not many of them take sufficient measures to stay secure online.
Online harassment hasn’t just become common but accepted to some extent. Harassment methods can include name-calling, stalking, or cyberbullying. For some reason, people find it comforting when they demean others by hurtful comments.
A large number of people have faced online harassment of some sort. It is a big threat because it happens round the clock and is permanent. Spoken words are not permanent but when something is written online, it stays there.
Harassment can happen anywhere but when it’s online, it can be prevented to some degree. And there are several ways for that. There are social media settings, VPNs, encrypted emails, and other tools. While these options are easily available, not many people use them.
A new survey was conducted by <name undisclosed> in the United Kingdom, June 2019. Given the size of the UK population of around 67,000,000 people, a representative sample survey of 600 people was conducted using the Google Surveys research tool. Taking into account a standard 95% confidence interval and a 4% margin error, the results of the survey statistically represent the population.
The survey was aimed to find the frequency of online harassment incidents. Social media is often the biggest platform where such harassment activities are done.
Fortunately, all social media platforms offer privacy settings to change the visibility of posts so certain elements can be avoided. Unwanted elements can be removed from the lists and harassers can be blocked and reported.
And to stay safe from hackers, there are a number of privacy tools like VPNs, encrypted emails, chat services, and others. But the question is, do people take these actions to stay safe?
A large number of people feel vulnerable to cyber threats and yet don’t take any preventive actions to improve their privacy
The UK public feels that they’re susceptible to online threats. About 66.67% of males and 50% of females responded that they believe that they can be targeted by online threats. These threats can be from stalkers, cyberbullies, or other forms of creeps who lurk online.
The survey showed that a younger audience is more aware of online threats and believes that they are not protected enough. Almost 75% of women of age 18-24 years said that they don’t believe they are sufficiently protected against online threats.
This number diminished in women over the age of 25 years.
The reason behind this fear might be personal experiences along with the rising cases of cyber-attacks. If we look back at 2019, there have been numerous incidents when people’s data was breached.
For example, in January, in Apple iOS that allowed FaceTime users to eavesdrop on the iPhone environment, possibly letting them view live video feeds. In March, Facebook admitted that it stored of millions of users in plaintext.
There are several such cases, and this might be the reason behind the growing concern among people about their cybersecurity.
However, they don’t take any preventive actions to improve their online privacy
While a large part of the respondents showed concern over their cybersecurity, not many of them were willing to do something about it.
2 in 3 men (65%) said that they wouldn’t want to improve on their online safety. And more than half (56.6%) of women said that they wouldn’t like to enhance their online safety.
These respondents included the people who had already experienced some form of online harassment or cyberstalking. And yet, they were not willing to improve their digital security.
Why people don’t want to improve their online safety
Nearly 22% of females who were harassed also say that they feel protected online and twice as many (43%) wouldn’t like to improve their security.
The question is, why would someone who has already been harassed wouldn’t want to improve their security? Is it laziness? Unawareness of further consequences? Ignorance of the right settings or technology?
A large percentage of respondents didn’t know that they are responsible for their own online safety.
While young Millenials of the age group 18-24 years are aware of the threat and would like to improve their online security, a large number of them don’t realize that they are responsible for their own online safety. They rely on big corporations and the government to keep them safe.
On the other hand, the boomer generation seems to be more aware of the fact that they are themselves responsible for their digital well-being. However, they have a casual approach and wouldn’t want to improve their online security.
There are several reasons behind this, including the thought that their data isn’t as appealing to hackers or the government.
Most of the female Millennials either received dick pics or were cyber stalked and harassed online
Many young female respondents (about 66.67%) had received unsolicited explicit images from strange men online. Others were cyberstalked or harassed online.
More commonly called dick pics, this culture has fast gained popularity as a means of harassing young females (and even males) on the internet.
The survey showed that women of the age group 18-24 are more prone to receiving unsolicited explicit imagery. About 60% of women in this age group received dick pics.
And it’s not just women who suffer this kind of sexual harassment. Nearly 30% of men in the same age group responded that they too have received dick pics without asking for prior consent.
Of course, these incidents are more frequent with women. Young women were twice as likely as men to face any type of online harassment.
While 1 in 10 males (10%) said that they have faced some form of online harassment, 1 in 7 females (14.3%) reported being online harassed.
In women, these numbers were higher for younger women (of age group 18-24 years) than slightly mature women of over 25 years of age.
Cyberstalking is another menace that online users face. Every 1 in 3 women in the age group of 18-24 years felt stalked or harassed in some way online. These numbers were fewer for women aged over 25 years.
Contrary to general opinion, men are also stalked and harassed online. Nearly 1 in 7 men reported that they felt being stalked or harassed online.
These numbers are alarming. This clearly shows that there are a number of predators lurking online, looking for soft targets and young people often end up being their favorite prey.
The study shows that young women of the age group 18-24 years are the most vulnerable online and feel the least protected. They are also the most willing to improve their online security.
While they are willing to take the necessary steps to stay more secure online, only 27% of them actually update their security settings diligently.
The numbers showed that about 18% of women in 18-24 years age group updated their security settings in the past one year. This number was 27% for women in the age group of 25-34 years.
This is surprising. Why wouldn’t someone who is aware of online dangers and someone who feels vulnerable take adequate steps to improve their security?
While young women agree that they have faced incidents of stalking and cyber harassment including receiving explicit images, they believe that their data is not worth hacking, and thus not worth protecting.
About 1 in every 3 males believed that their data isn’t worth hacking. Similarly, 1 in 4 females believed that no hacker would spend all that energy and resources to hack their account as they don’t have anything hack-worthy.
There have been prior studies on related topics and most of them shown that women are more concerned about their privacy than men. They are also more likely to obey security policies than men. And yet, studies show that men have higher cybersecurity behavior than women.
Gustafsod (1998) found that men and women have different perceptions of risk. While men are more willing to take a risk, women have higher levels of concern and try to stay on the safer side.
Men and women show different self-reported behavior toward cybersecurity. While men self-reported themselves on cybersecurity better than women, it could also be overconfidence that leads to men being more vulnerable to online risks.
Young women are also the least likely to add an extra layer of protection.
Some protection tools that were mentioned during the survey were VPNs, encrypted emails, password managers, private search engines, and private messaging apps.
Among the young women who did use some sort of security tools, the most commonly used were private search engines and VPNs.
Compared to other segments in the survey, young women are more likely to think that their online security lies in the hands of others, rather than of themselves.
Some users just won’t do ANYTHING AT ALL for their online security
While it might be difficult to digest, there are some people who won’t do absolutely anything at all for online security. Nearly 1 in every 7 males said that they’re happy doing nothing for online security and aren’t planning on improving the situation.
On the other hand, 1 in every 14 females reported that they’d rather not do anything at all to improve the security. This shows that women are more aware of online dangers and are not willing to risk their security.
The situation is dire. While people in the UK are aware of online dangers, not many of them are willing to take a couple of minutes to improve their security. As discussed earlier, a large part of their unwillingness lies in their belief that their credentials are not worth stealing, and other reasons might be laziness or ignorance of the impact of data stealth.