Americans are less concerned about nearly all aspects of security than they were 12 months ago, but an overwhelming majority consider security issues very important when assessing presidential candidates, according to research by Unisys Corporation.
Results from the bi-annual Unisys Security Index, which regularly surveys more than 1,000 Americans on a wide range of security concerns, showed a large drop in levels of security concern compared to a year ago, with the largest drop in concern related to national security. The latest survey polled 1,005 U.S. adults in February 2012.
Despite the overall decline in security concern, an overwhelming majority of U.S. respondents considered a range of domestic national security concerns "very important" for presidential candidates to emphasize in the upcoming elections.
Protecting government computer systems from hackers and criminals (74 percent) topped the list of issues that U.S. respondents would like presidential candidates to emphasize. Additionally, more Americans surveyed say U.S. presidential candidates should focus on the defense of utilities and transportation systems from cyber attacks (73 percent) than on homeland security issues such as terrorism (68 percent). And 63 percent said protecting personal health information was a priority, while 53 percent considered border security very important for candidates to emphasize.
"The latest results of our survey show that the American people recognize the impact that cyber attacks can have on our critical infrastructure and are looking to the U.S. Government to take on a more active role in proactively defending our nation's key assets," said Steve Vinsik, vice president enterprise security, Unisys. "It's interesting that more respondents to our survey said they were concerned about cyber attacks than physical terror attacks. This illustrates that Americans' perception of security threats is changing, and our nation's response to those threats must change too."
Unisys also surveyed U.S. respondents on their preferences for securing their mobile work devices when used outside of the workplace. Fifty-five percent of U.S. respondents said they prefer using complex passwords (combinations of uppercase and lower case letters, symbols and numbers) for mobile security. Biometrics such as fingerprints, voice or facial images were the second most preferred method, with 37 percent of respondents showing preference for one or more of those methods for protecting mobile devices outside the workplace.
Nearly a third (32 percent) of respondents said they prefer simple passwords for securing their mobile devices outside the workplace.
"This is a worrisome finding for executives and enterprise IT managers," Vinsik added. "Passwords alone simply do not provide a sufficient level of security to protect sensitive data against today's sophisticated cyber criminals. Organizations need to leverage the use of facial and voice biometrics that most smart phones are capable of supporting today."
On a scale of zero to 300, the overall U.S. Unisys Security Index score was 131, representing a moderate level of concern. The U.S. score was 164 in the previous Unisys Security Index survey reported in May 2011. All four areas of security concern surveyed by Unisys (national, personal, Internet and financial) declined in the current survey. Identity theft topped the list of serious concerns at 59 percent, and 56 percent of respondents were seriously concerned about unauthorized credit card use.