New Study by Saint Leo Polling Institute Quantifies Consumer Cybersecurity Jitters

December 12, 2014

Eighty-two percent of consumers say they are very or somewhat concerned that their credit or debit card information can be stolen if there are cyber breaches at businesses where they shop, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. The online survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted between November 25 and December 6.

Specifically, 41 percent of those participating said they were “very concerned” that their debit card or debit card information could be stolen as a result of cyber breaches at retailers where they shop. Another 41 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.” The survey question noted that Target, Home Depot, and Kmart have experienced data breaches in which customers’ card information may have been stolen.

In spite of the high level of awareness of cyber crime, 48 percent said they have not stopped or reduced use of debit or credit cards. On the other hand, a combined total of 40 percent reported they are using their debit or credit cards less (33 percent) or not at all now (7 percent.)

A significant number of consumers are also concerned about the security of their personal information online, given the data breaches and reports that some iCloud accounts have been hacked. While a combined population of 49 percent said they were at least “somewhat confident” that their personal information online is secure–10 percent said they were “very confident” and 39 percent said they were “somewhat confident”–almost as many are ill at ease. Another 32 percent said they are “not very confident” information online is protected and 14 percent said they were “not at all confident,” for a total of 46 percent who have doubts.

Dr. Sreekanth Malladi, associate professor at Saint Leo’s Donald R. Tapia School of Business, reviewed the survey findings and offered some advice. Dr. Malladi teaches cybersecurity classes to undergraduates, and also now to graduate students in Saint Leo’s new master of science in cybersecurity, which is offered at University Campus, and online beginning in January.

“People seem to understand that cloud storage security is not guaranteed. That is good news. However, there needs to be an awareness of how to effectively manage their data storage to withstand data breaches and losses,” Dr. Malladi said. “Classifying data is an important step where data is divided into personal, official, confidential, important, unimportant, etc. Using an external, personal hard drive is recommended for important documents and personal pictures, while the cloud can be utilized for files that are not important, or do not need confidentiality or get frequently modified.”

More detailed results on consumers’ perceptions around cyber breaches and security can be found by in the full survey results posted at http://polls.saintleo.edu.

The recent poll also covered politics, Pope Francis, charitable giving, and, for the benefit of college sports fans, incorporated several questions to determine attitudes about whether and how much college athletes should be compensated, about the purposes of college sports, and related topics.