Survey: Americans Want to Protect Their Information, But Unsure Where to Start

Jul 02, 2019
4 minutes

A new online survey from Palo Alto Networks and YouGov reveals that Americans are still confused about what it means to be safe on the internet, despite a desire to learn about security best practices. Data showed that 66% of Americans believe they’re already doing all they can to prevent the loss of their information, yet only 27% always attempt to verify the identity of an unknown sender when receiving an email – which is commonly known as the top threat vector for attackers. 

Palo Alto Networks partnered with YouGov and Dr. Jessica Barker, an expert in the human nature of cybersecurity, to poll over 1,300 American adults to explore human behavior as it relates to cybersecurity. The discrepancy between consumers’ belief that they’re already doing all they can to stay safe, despite their lack of security knowledge, highlights a major need for businesses to do more to keep their customers protected and educated.  

Other key findings include: 


  • Gap between responsibility and action: 62% of Americans feel they should be responsible for the security of their personal data, yet only 24% indicated they run a computer scan as their first reaction after interacting with a link they believe to be malicious. 
  • Lack of security education: 28% of Americans say they have never participated in cybersecurity training, and 16% admit to participating only once a year. 
  • Willingness to learn: 47% of Americans think knowing more about what they can do to protect themselves and their families online would make them feel more secure. 


"The fact that we have made tremendous strides in terms of cybersecurity technology today, compared to when the internet was young, does not get people off the hook for general internet safety," said Rick Howard, chief security officer at Palo Alto Networks. "This idea is very similar to car safety. Technology has improved mightily to improve the safety of driving modern cars, but drivers still have to follow the speed limit and wear their seat belts. For cybersecurity, people are not sure how to wear their cyber seat belts, and businesses should dedicate resources to educating and training their workforce in security best practices.”

The online study also polled people in EMEA, Brazil, and Canada

On average, just over a quarter (26%) of the more than 10,000 EMEA adults surveyed prefer their cybersecurity to be managed by AI rather than a human. Italy has the most confidence in relying on AI (38%), while in the UK only 21% of people prefer AI over humans to protect their digital way of life.

In a poll of more than 1,000 Brazilian adults, 52% prefer cybersecurity to be managed by artificial intelligence (AI) rather than a human. Additionally, 62% spend less time worrying about their data security due to cybersecurity technology. 

In a poll of more than 1,000 Canadian adults, more than two-thirds (66%) said they apply the same level of security across all of their personal devices (e.g., PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets), and more than half (56%) feel they’re doing all they can to prevent the loss of their information. 

“Trust is so important in cybersecurity. People want to be actively engaged in better protecting themselves online, and they embrace technology that supports them in this. The knowledge acquired can then be transferred to other areas of their lives, most importantly, the workplace,” said Dr. Jessica Barker. 

At a time when cybersecurity and privacy are at the heart of crucial technological, economic, and political debates, it is more important than ever that consumers learn how to stay secure. Businesses everywhere have been stepping up efforts to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate their security processes, but humans remain a critical vulnerability. For consumers and businesses to stay secure, organizations across the board need to step up and educate their employees in cybersecurity. 

YouGov Survey Methodology

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Sample sizes were 10,317 respondents in EMEA countries (1,041 in France, 2,181 in Germany, 1,021 in Italy, 1,016 in the Netherlands, 1,953 in Sweden, 1,005 in the UAE, and 2,100 in the UK), 1,315 respondents in the US, 1,012 in Canada, and 1,006 in Brazil. Fieldwork was undertaken between April 29 - May 17, 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) in each country.


Subscribe to the Newsletter!

Sign up to receive must-read articles, Playbooks of the Week, new feature announcements, and more.