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Pew: Cyber-Savvy Varies by Topic, Tech

A majority of internet users can identify some basic cyber threats, but their cyber-savvy varies by topic and technical detail.

That is according to a Pew Research survey of over 1,000 adult internet users (to answer the same study questions in the form of a quiz, click here before reading further). 

The study found that 75% of respondents can identify the strongest password in a multiple choice of four, 73% recognize that password-protected Wi-Fi nets are not necessarily safe for online banking or other "sensitive tasks"; 54% can identify phishing attacks; and 52% say that turning off GPS on a smart phone doesn't prevent all tracking. 

But fewer than half of the respondents (46%) identified that “all email is encrypted by default” is false; 45% “all Wi-Fi traffic is encrypted by default on all wireless routers” as false, and the percentages went down from there.

Only 39% were aware that ISPs "are able to see the sites their customers are visiting while utilizing the 'private browsing' mode on their internet browsers"; 33% know that the letter “s” in “https://” indicates the traffic on that site is encrypted; and only 13% knew that VPNs minimized the risk of using insecure Wi-Fi nets. 

Not surprisingly, the survey found that those with more education and the younger users who have grown up with the internet got higher scores. College degree holders averaged 7 of the 13 questions correctly, but those with only some college averaged 5.5 and with no college only 4.

But seniors were found to be just as likely to identify a phishing attack, a secure password and even how many free credit reports are entitled by law as the 18-29 demo. 

The study was based on an online survey of 1,055 U.S. adults. It was conducted June 17-27, 2016, and has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points at 95% confidence.

(Photo via Rock1997Image taken on Jan. 18, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)