Google survey finds security pros, users don’t see eye-to-eye

You’ve probably already figured this one out, but a recent survey from Google shows that your security priorities and those of your users’ often don’t line up. 

The research, which consisted of two surveys that asked IT professionals and non-professionals about online security measures, found that there’s one area where the two groups agree, however: passwords.

Different priorities

When the pros were asked what they do to stay safe online, their top five measures were:

  1. installing software updates 
  2. using unique passwords
  3. using two-factor authentication
  4. using strong passwords, and
  5. using password managers.

Compare that to users, who cited:

  1. using antivirus software
  2. using strong passwords
  3. changing passwords frequently
  4. only visiting sites they know, and
  5. not sharing personal information.

Awareness gaps

To be sure, most of these security steps are good ones to follow. You can’t fault users for going with any of them.

But the effectiveness of the measures may not be terrific. While 42% of non-experts said antivirus was one of their top three security measures, only 7% of experts agreed.

On the opposite side of the coin, 35% of experts cited patching and updating as crucial to security, while just 2% of non-experts did.

Even experts and non-experts alike were slightly concerned about enabling automatic updates, though. Survey respondents cited “glitchy” patches, and one respondent stated, “there are often bugs in these updates initially, that must be worked out by the software vendor.” Users cited concerns with verifying that the patches were legitimate, and not malware in disguise.

Google finds the password connection

The biggest area of agreement: strong passwords.

Users said they were important. IT said they were important.

But how they went about password management varied. Some tidbits:

  • users were more likely than IT experts to say having “strong” passwords was important
  • IT experts were more likely to urge “unique” passwords, and
  • experts were much more likely to use password managers to stay safe.

The good news: It seems users are generally aware of the need for security online. They just may be a bit confused about where the focus should be.

Educate them on what steps they can and should focus on to stay safe. Mention the drawbacks of the less effective means, such as antivirus software’s limitations.

Ultimately, if users are asked to do something completely new, they may not adopt the change. But if it’s about re-prioritizing and changing the focus of something they already do, they’re going to be more likely to go along with it.

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