Internet users in Ireland score highly in relation to password security but fail to maintain good online safety habits, a survey by YouGov commissioned by Google has found.
The poll was conducted in advance of Safer Internet Day which occurs tomorrow, Tuesday 5th February. Safer Internet Day is an EU-wide initiative to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people, and is promoted in Ireland by the PDST Technology in Education and Webwise. Last year saw 100,000 young people get involved in the initiative.
The Google/YouGov survey found that majority of Irish people (39%) state that they follow the recommended practice of using different passwords for each of their online accounts, with only 4.5% admitting the more risky approach of using one password for all services. However, a significant proportion (45%) claim to only change their password either less than every 6 months or never, thereby considerably reducing the effectiveness of the multiple password approach.
Similarly, half of Irish internet users use two-step verification for ‘some but not all’ of their online accounts, with a further 20% claiming to use this highly secure method of log-in for all their internet services. But again, a majority (33%) of people have never used an online tool such as Google Security Checkup to review their online security settings, with another 13% only referring to them less than every 6 months. By not using an online security auditing tool, users are exposed to a number of risks such as remaining logged in on old devices or not maintaining the correct account recovery details.
Safer Internet Day is the ideal opportunity for people in Ireland to review their online security credentials, especially in light of the Google/YouGov survey which found that three quarters of Irish users have experienced some sort of online scam or security breach: 54% of people have been the target of ‘phishing’ scams; 23% have been victims of viruses or malware which has stolen personal data; 17% have had their social media accounts hacked, and 15% have parted with money for goods or services that did not exist.
Commenting on the findings, Ryan Meade, Public Policy Manager at Google said, “It’s great to see that so many Irish people are aware of good security techniques such as multiple passwords and two-factor authentication, and more importantly the YouGov survey shows that we actually follow these good practices too. However, all this good work can easily be undone by not staying on top of security settings and regularly monitoring permissions and account activity. Services such as Google Security Checkup are clean and simple one-stop-shops for a regular “internet security NCT”, which will significantly reduce the risk posed by ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated attacks on your personal information online”.
Tips on How to Stay Safe Online this Internet Safety Day
- Ensure your browser is up to date.
The internet security community is a collaborative one, with developers on the most popular browsers such as Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox working together to keep web surfers safe. One way they do this is by using the open-source Google Safe Browsing platform, which they all contribute to continually, so as new threats and scams develop it is important that your browser is the latest version available. Thankfully, half the world’s online population is protected by Safe Browsing today.
- Check the URL.
Many online scams stem from websites that are posing as legitimate services – such as a bank, insurance company, or even Google – which ask you for sensitive information such as passwords or financial details. The best way to avoid this is to check the URL, otherwise known as the web address. Unless it’s clearly belonging to the website in question – for example, Google, not Go0gle or Goggle – then it’s most likely fraudulent. The better browsers, such as Google Chrome, should alert you to this, but it’s always worth double-checking to be sure.
- Vary your passwords.
Thankfully, the majority of Irish people follow the recommended practice of using different passwords for each of their online accounts, according to the survey by YouGov. However almost half only change their password either less than every 6 months or never, effectively undoing most of this good work. This may be driven by a fear of forgetting new passwords, something which most browsers such as Chrome can easily resolve thanks to Password Manager, which automatically enters usernames and passwords for your favourite sites, and can even offer highly secure suggestions.