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Loss Prevention

High Anxiety

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Americans are feeling high levels of anxiety about all aspects of security, from national and financial security to online and physical threats. The sharpest rise in concern centers on Internet security, with approximately half of Americans seriously concerned about viruses, spam and the safety of online shopping.

The bi-annual Unisys Security Index surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to gauge consumer opinion on financial, national and Internet security, as well as personal safety. The total U.S. Unisys Security Index score (164 on a 300-point scale) jumped more than 20 percent over the past six months. Researchers identify this level of concern as being “serious” — the first time the U.S. index has warranted that designation since the survey began in 2007.

The survey was taken in February, several months before the demise of Osama bin Laden. Still, Steve Vinsik, vice president of critical infrastructure protection at Unisys, doesn’t expect the index to shift much in the wake of bin Laden’s death. “It’s difficult to predict how the consumer feels at any given time,” he says. “The index may dip slightly, but I continue to anticipate higher levels of concern than we saw in late 2009 and in 2010.”

The unrest in the Middle East that has dominated much of this year’s headlines “has continued since bin Laden’s death, and there are those who suggest the violence could escalate,” Vinsik says. “Couple that with the sheer number of incidents of identity theft and security compromise that are reported every week in the national media, and you understand why Americans are feeling so anxious. Just in the last few weeks we had the Sony PlayStation breach of personal information and the PIN pad compromises at Michaels.”

Internet security highest concern
Looking at each area individually, results show an 18.4 percent increase in worry over financial security, a 16.5 percent rise in concerns about national security and a jump of 15.9 percent when it comes to concerns about personal security. While those increases were significant, the 31.5 percent spike in the index reading for Internet security was downright alarming.

Vinsik points out that the survey was taken as the WikiLeaks news unfolded, but he believes that the consumerization of IT in the United States could have a negative impact on consumers’ concerns in the future.

“Consumers are leveraging their mobile devices to conduct online banking and complex transactions,” he says. “The industries involved assure users that everything is secure, but when you think about how the data moves, how many times it’s encrypted along the way and how many institutions touch it, the level of concern can be very real.”

Growing anxiety about security also relates to concerns about the near-decade-long war on terrorism, identity theft and bankcard fraud. Seventy percent of Americans surveyed said they were seriously concerned about identity theft; 68 percent of respondents said they were seriously concerned about falling victim to credit or debit card fraud; and 67 percent were seriously concerned about national security.