Viral effect: half the number of people ignoring cyber threats

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Viral effect: half the number of people ignoring cyber threats

The number of Russians who ignore cyber threats has almost halved: from 23% in 2019 to 12% in 2021, experts from ESET found out. Experts attribute this to the fact that during the pandemic, many had to more strictly observe information security rules while working from home. In addition, in 2020, the activity of online fraudsters increased, which motivated ordinary users to pay more attention to basic digital hygiene products. The level of literacy of Russians in matters of information protection will not roll back to the previous level, but there are few reasons for its growth in the future, experts say.

Russians against cyber threats

ESET conducted a survey of Russians on the use of methods of protection against cyber threats. Each respondent could mark several ways or none at all. The latter option was encountered by researchers only in 12% of cases. In 2019, in a similar survey, 23% of respondents said they would not use any remedies. ESET considers this result to be evidence of an increase in the level of information security (IS) literacy among Russians.

“The catalyst was not the very fact of the transition of the economy and everyday life to online, but the widespread demand of employers for their telecommuters to use digital protection,” says Anton Ponomarev, director of ESET's corporate business department.

In 2020–2021, the number of Russians who are concerned about cybersecurity issues has really increased, agrees Vseslav Solenik, director of the center of expertise of the company-developer of corporate information security systems R-Vision. In his opinion, the main reason was the increased activity of telephone and Internet fraudster

- The same applies to ransomware and phishing mailings: they are now part of everyday life. And this means that more and more people are beginning to understand that information security is about them personally and their well-being. The educational work of the state, the Central Bank, market players, the professional community and the media also plays a role in this, the expert believes.

After the pandemic has weakened and the explosive pace of development of Internet services has decreased, the level of digital literacy of Russians is unlikely to fall back to previous levels, said Andrey Arsentiev, head of analytics and special projects at InfoWatch.

“Although after the end of the pandemic, people for some time will not have such powerful incentives to develop relevant competencies,” he warned.

A spontaneous increase in the level of literacy of users in matters of information security should not be expected, agrees Alexander Dvoryansky, Director of Strategic Communications at Infosecurity. It can be supported by employers who pay attention to cybersecurity, the expert said.

However, due to Internet scammers, the share of Russians who comply with digital hygiene measures may continue to grow, Vseslav Solenik admitted.

Password is the head of everything

Among the security measures used, Russians most often (in 46% of cases) named the use of complex and different passwords, according to the results of an ESET survey. The second most popular tool was antivirus (36%). The next most frequently mentioned protection method was two-factor authentication (28%). Also in the top 6 were avoiding public Wi-Fi (24%), refusing to provide sites with personal data (20%), and making backups (13%).

Among respondents who use complex passwords, 53% change them at least twice a year, the survey showed. Another 32% come up with new passwords once a year or less. The remaining 15% of those surveyed admitted to using the same password from the moment of registration.

“Regular password updates and their complexity, although stimulated by the requirements of sites and applications, are still ignored by users and are one of the main vulnerabilities of their data and applications,” said Vseslav Solenik.

Antivirus advertising

Among people using antivirus software, 60% prefer this type of free software, the survey found. 28% of respondents use paid security software or are ready to start paying for it. The rest of the people admitted that they find anti-virus software on pirate sites or download random programs that are easier to install.

Viral effect: half the number of people ignoring cyber threats
Viral effect: half the number of people ignoring cyber threats


Free antiviruses, in comparison with paid solutions, only give a feeling of security, and do not really provide it, says Anton Ponomarev. Plus, random freeware often contains embedded malware and collects large amounts of data on devices, he added.

“For those users who value not so much a sense of security as actual cybersecurity, the use of paid antivirus software is a matter of course, like soap in the bathroom and salt in the kitchen,” the expert said.

Even if free solutions are inferior to commercial ones, this does not mean that they are useless, according to Denis Legezo, senior cybersecurity expert at Kaspersky Lab.

“If the choice is between a free antivirus solution or a complete rejection of additional protection, then it is better to use the free version,” he said.

At the same time, the software should only be licensed and from a reliable vendor, he added. Using unlicensed versions or free programs from unknown developers downloaded on the Internet can be not only ineffective, but also dangerous, the expert warned. Attackers can use the names of popular security solutions to spread malware, Denis Legeso noted. In addition, unofficial versions of security solutions are not updated, which means they are ineffective against new threats, he added.

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