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Cyber security knowledge on the rise, but is it enough?

On the whole, people appreciate how much technology has improved their lives, but the risk of personal information being exposed is frequently on their minds.

This is according to an Experian survey, which questioned consumers about topics related to cyber security and their use of the internet and mobile devices.

According to the survey, most consumers (83%) agree that technology has enhanced their daily life in areas such as connecting with the people they care about (51%) and gaining access to knowledge or education (50%).

Furthermore, 30% of those surveyed say technology helps their financial status, and slightly more (33%) say it allows them to be more engaged with the products they use.

They also would be even more connected, if possible, than they are today (80%), the survey shows.

While using technology, the majority of people understand identity theft is a risk but are not managing their privacy.

Only 36% of survey respondents review privacy policies when notified of changes by institutions they do business with, and just 28% review privacy policies of mobile apps before downloading them.

Despite this, 93% feel identity theft is a growing problem, while 91% believe that people should be more concerned about the issue.

Online activities that generate the most concern include making an online purchase (73%), using public Wi-Fi (69%), and accessing online accounts (69%).

Consumers need to be vigilant about their personal information, and need to protect themselves year-round, says Michael Bruemmer, Experian vice president consumer protection.

"There is always a risk of consumers' personal information being exposed or shared in ways they aren't aware of if they don't read the policies, but by practicing good security habits they can enjoy the benefits of technology without anxiety,” he says.

The survey found most respondents are concerned they will fall victim to identity theft in the future (71%), resulting in a generally proactive approach to protecting personal information.

In fact, almost 50% of survey respondents say they are taking more precautions compared with last year.

Nearly all (91%) take steps to secure physical information, such as shredding documents, while also securing digital information (using passwords and antivirus software).

Many consumers also make sure to check their credit report (33%) and bank account statements (76%) at least once per month.

However, there is still room for improvement.

According to Experian, more than 50% of consumers do not check to see if a website is secure; 50% do not have all of their web-enabled devices password-protected because it is a hassle to enter a password (30%) or they do not feel it is necessary (25%); 55% do not close the web browser when they are finished using an online account; and, 15% keep a written record of passwords and PINs in their purse or wallet or on a mobile device or computer.

There are some simple ways in which people can secure their identity in the digital age, Experian says.

This includes:

  • Changing passwords regularly
  • Avoid sharing personally identifying information, such as your full birth date, on social networks
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi hot spots, which make it easy for thieves to hack into the information stored on your mobile devices
  • Password-protect your phone since it provides access to sensitive information and accounts
  • Enable remote location and wiping software on your phone, allowing you to track it and wipe all data if it's lost or stolen
  • Review credit reports regularly and watch for signs of fraud
  • Consider enrolling in identity theft protection monitoring and take action if you receive alerts that your identity could be compromised
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