Across the Great Divide: Measuring Security Awareness Among US and UK Users

End users in the U.S. and U.K. have very different attitudes toward security. Earlier this summer, Wombat Security surveyed more than 2,000 working adults — half in the U.S. and half in the U.K. — about various cybersecurity topics and perceptions of best practices. The researchers found some interesting surprises and noted a series of different attitudes and actual security practices between citizens of the two countries.

Identifying Security Awareness Gaps

The biggest difference is that half of the Americans surveyed have been cybertheft victims, compared to 19 percent of British respondents. Statistics regarding social media breaches were similarly skewed.

Alarmingly, the report also revealed some interesting misconceptions about security basics. Roughly one-third of the Americans thought that malware was something that boosted Wi-Fi signals, for example, while only a small percentage of the British respondents thought this was true. Clearly, there is room for education here on both sides of the pond.

Another big difference: Americans have more trust in their digital lives than U.K. users, which is not necessarily a good thing. More than half of the U.S. respondents thought they could trust Wi-Fi networks in locations such as a hotels and coffee shops, but less than a third of the British respondents felt this way. Almost the same percentage of U.S. users (58 percent) thought they could trust their antivirus software to stop a potential cyberattack, while only 37 percent of U.K. users thought that was true.

Differences in Security Practices

When it comes to using appropriate password hygiene, 38 percent of Americans use password managers, compared to 10 percent of British users. Still, both groups have a big block of users who maintain just a few of the same passwords when they go online. Additionally, 8 percent of U.S. users and 14 percent of U.K. users lack a lock screen password on their mobile devices.

Virtual private network (VPN) use is more widespread in the U.S. than in the U.K. (65 percent versus 44 percent, respectively). In fact, 33 percent of British respondents reported that they didn’t know what a VPN was, compared to just 19 percent of Americans. And although 21 percent of users in the U.S. reported that they rarely or never use a VPN, that number was almost twice as high for British respondents (38 percent).

A Long Way to Go

The report made no attempt to explain why these fundamentals of network and data security diverge between the two populations. Still, both American and British users clearly have a long way to go before we can see better security practices in the general population.

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David Strom

Security Evangelist

David is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, video blogger, and online communications professional who also advises numerous startup and well-established technology ventures. He began his career as an in-house IT analyst and has founded numerous technology print and online publications, such as editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and as part of the launch team of PC Week's Connectivity section. David has written two books and spoken around the world at various conferences and been on national radio and television talking about network technologies. He continues to build websites and publish articles on a wide variety of technology topics geared towards networking, security, channel, PC enthusiasts, OEMs, and consumers. In addition to these activities, he consults to vendors and evaluates emerging technologies, products, strategies, and trends to help position and improve their technology products.