The technology world celebrated International Safer Internet Day on Monday, but companies large and small hope to see widespread change over the rest of the year. With that in mind, Microsoft is asking consumers to "Do 1 Thing" to stay safer online, and launched a Web site that promotes online safety.
Microsoft.com/saferonline lets Internet users around the world share how they plan to avoid online risks, learn what other people are doing to help protect themselves and receive tips to improve their digital lifestyle.
"The Internet touches our lives every day; we e-mail to stay connected, share photos and videos, pay bills, and shop," said Jacqueline Beauchere, chief online safety officer at Microsoft. "Sometimes, though, the very experiences that we love about the Internet put us at risk."
The Scary Numbers
According to the third annual Microsoft Computing Safety Index survey, the annual worldwide impact of phishing and various forms of identity theft could be as high as $5 billion, with the cost of repairing damage to peoples' online reputation higher yet at nearly $6 billion, or an estimated average of $632 per loss. This means that education and guidance about how to avoid online risks remain key and is why Microsoft is asking people to "Do 1 Thing" today and make it part of their daily digital routine.
Consider these additional statistics: Of the more than 10,000 consumers surveyed, 15 percent said they were victims of a phishing attack, losing on average $158; 13 percent said their professional reputation had been compromised, costing on average $535 to repair; and 9 percent said they had suffered identity theft at an average cost of $218.
Yet despite such losses, only 36 percent said they limit what strangers see on social networks and the amount of personal information online, while 33 percent said they adjust their social network privacy settings. And, only 33 percent use a PIN (personal identification number) or password to lock their device.
Can We Change Behavior?
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, to get his take on Microsoft's safety survey and recommendations. He told us much of the security problem on the Web starts with the user.
"The most common passwords are trivial and very easy to figure out and accounts are regularly penetrated and identities stolen because of them. Users can be easily tricked into installing malware they get in the mail and, for the most part, are pretty clueless when it comes to security," Enderle said.
"Any security solution therefore has to start with changing that bad behavior, and this effort is targeted at doing exactly that. Having said that, changing behavior takes a ton of effort, so this would only be a start."
Four Helpful Tips
Microsoft is making specific recommendations for Internet users who want to make more informed decisions and help to better protect their online activities, including:
1. Help guard your devices and online accounts. Use a unique four-digit PIN for mobile devices and strong passwords for online accounts.
2. Perform sensitive transactions over secured networks. This includes paying bills, banking or shopping. Don't share personal account information over "borrowed" or public Wi-Fi connections.
3. Take charge of your online reputation. Discover what information about you is on the Internet, periodically re-evaluate it, and remove unwanted or inaccurate content to cultivate an accurate, positive reputation.
4. Help protect your social circles. Use privacy settings to manage the information you share and with whom you share it. Be selective about what you post and accepting friends.