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ncsa-safest-internet-access-device-nov11.gif51% of US consumers feel safest accessing the Internet with a desktop or laptop, while just 1 in 10 feel safest using their smart phone and only 4% using their tablet, according to [pdf] a National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee study released in November 2011. Data from the “2011 Internet Home Users Survey” indicates that the remainder of the respondents either have only accessed the internet with a desktop or laptop (27%), or are unsure (9%) which device offers the safest way to access the Internet.

Unsecure Wi-Fi Top Security Threat

One-third of respondents say that connecting to an unsecure wireless network puts them most at risk of a cyber crime or loss of personal information. This is followed by not having any or enough security software (22%), using a public computer (12%), and not knowing how to identify if a site is secure (12%). Not updating other software – such as browser or operating system – is seen as the biggest threat by only 6% of respondents.

More than half of the respondents report having at one point logged onto a wireless network without entering a password.

Mobile Users More Cautious, But Generally Safe

40% of smart phone or tablet users say they are either much more (16%) or somewhat more (24%) cautious using the internet on their device than on their desktop or laptop, compared to 30% who are either somewhat less (23%) or much less (7%) cautious.

Even so, 70% of mobile phone users feel that their device is either very safe (15%) or somewhat safe (55%) from hackers, malware, or other types of cyber crime, compared to 26% who feel either somewhat unsafe (20%) or not safe at all (6%).

Personal Contacts, Photos Top Usage

About 4 in 5 respondents say they have kept a list of their personal contacts on their smartphone at least once in the past 6 months, making it the most widespread activity among smartphone users. A majority have also used their device to store photos (75%), access social networks (69%), keep a calendar (66%), instant message someone (52%), and research potential purchases (50%), although just 27% have made a purchase from their device. According to a survey released in November by Motricity, 32% of smartphone and tablet owners say that concerns about security have prevented them from making a mobile purchase.

1 in 2 Have Avoided App Over Security Concern

Half of respondents say they have not downloaded an app to their smart phone over security or safety concerns. The leading cause, cited by 71% of those respondents, was a lack of certainty over what personal data was being collected and how it would be used. More than half also pointed to concerns over access to information on their device such as contacts or social networks, while 46% were concerned by the use of their location.

About one-quarter of respondents say they always read the developer’s personal information policy before downloading an app to their smartphone, while an additional 40% say they sometimes do, and 31% admit never reading the policy.

About the Data: IBOPE Zogby International was commissioned by the National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee to conduct an online survey of 2,337 adults. A sampling of IBOPE Zogby International’s online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the U.S., was invited to participate from 9/23/11 to 9/28/11.

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