(Family Features) Based on the results of a new USA Network study, the proliferation of cyber crimes and security breaches may place America on the verge of a social media shutdown. But when it comes to taking precautions to protect themselves online, most Americans could be doing a much better job.
According to the study -- which is timed to the premiere of USA Network's new cyber-security thriller Mr. Robot -- in light of online privacy concerns, most young people wouldn't join social media at all if they could start fresh. In addition, 75 percent of respondents are considering deactivating their social media accounts if major digital security breaches continue.
The survey, "Nation Under A-Hack," indicated that cyber-based fears are on the rise. Eighty-six percent of 18 to 49 year olds agree that the next major terrorist attack will likely be a digital one, and more than half feel that cyber warfare is a bigger threat today than physical warfare.
Despite these concerns, Americans have failed to take many simple precautions to protect themselves online. Nearly half of respondents said their online passwords were "mostly the same or close variations of one another," making them susceptible to data breaches and hackers. Furthermore, most parents of teens haven't purchased digital protection software for their children.
Not surprisingly, the mounting awareness of cyber crime is attracting attention in the entertainment industry, where entire plot lines are devoted to the evolving gray area between “good hacking” and “bad hacking.” USA Network's new drama series, Mr. Robot, follows a young programmer who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and as a vigilante hacker by night.
More details about Mr. Robot -- which airs Wednesday nights at 10pm, 9pm Central -- can be found at www.usanetwork.com/mrrobot. Meanwhile, consider these tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance to better protect yourself online:
Add layers of security. Many sites let you add additional protective features to verify your identity before you can proceed with transactions or interact with your account. Common examples include security questions based on your personal history (not just account details such as your address) and images you can select to associate with your account profile.Don’t take shortcuts. It may be harder to remember, but incorporating capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols all strengthen your password and make it harder for someone with ill intentions to guess their way into your account.Dare to be different. Assigning the same password to every account makes life easier -- until a hacker discovers that the same password gives access to your Facebook account with details about your kids’ activities, your bank account that suddenly has a zero balance and all your credit cards.Just say no. Learn to be comfortable with your own limitations and set your privacy and security settings accordingly. Know that it is okay to decline to share information with individuals, groups, apps, businesses and other entities online.
Report cyber crime. Just like other criminal activity, cyber crime should be reported to the local authorities immediately. They can refer you to additional resources, if needed. Then be diligent about changing you passwords, canceling affected bank or credit cards and, in cases of identity theft, notifying credit reporting agencies.