Microsoft Study Reveals Most Consumers Ignore Internet Risks

New research from Microsoft shows that consumers are now more aware of internet risks and privacy concerns – but just as unwilling to do much about them…

The second annual Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) report surveyed over 10,000 PC, smartphone and tablet users about online safety and assigned point scores between 0 to 100 based on their answers.

The global average score was 34 for PC online safety and 40 for mobile”. Perhaps it is not surprising that mobile scores are slightly higher – the risks of loss/theft are significantly increased so users are more likely to protect their data/identity falling into the wrong hands.

The younger (and probably more technically aware) demographics of mobile users may also contribute to the higher score, as may the widely publicized security scares from malicious apps. However, the score for PC users is exactly the same as it was a year ago – whilst users may be more aware of risks, they are still not taking additional action to mitigate them.

Some of the more worrying findings include:

  • Only 53% have installed antivirus software on their PC – thanks to the other 47% for keeping computer repair businesses going ;-)

Whilst no antivirus software can ever be totally effective against all malware, even freebies like Avast and AVG offer good protection at no cost – to prevent the spread of malware it is a shame that Windows does not block internet access to those unwilling to use even the most basic security… Windows 8 includes Defender (similar to MSE) by default – although it may offer relatively poor protection, it is at least a step forward as it is better than no protection at all.

  • 55% experience multiple online risks, yet only 16% take multiple proactive steps to help protect themselves and their data.
  • Only a third have set up a PIN to unlock their mobile device.
  • Only a third said that they use secure websites and only 28% said they avoided using open WiFi mobile hotspots.


MCSI Online Test – there are 2 pages of Yes/No questions followed by a few quick questions about your actual PC security e.g. are you using an antivirus. I scored in the 80-100 higher end of the scale (which I should as the owner of an IT business!) but, as an example, answering ‘No’ to everything except that you use an antivirus and firewall still scores 15.

Therefore the average score of 34 is, in my opinion, disappointingly low – and no better than last year. It would be interesting to see a study on the psychology behind such apparent user apathy i.e. which are the most important contributory factors – lack of knowledge, lack of time, lack of prioritization or just plain ‘it couldn’t happen to me’ syndrome?

Let us know your score in the comments – could you do better and, if so, what would help you improve your score?