Cyber Security Industry Alliance Newsletter • Volume 2, Number 4  • December 2005

Internet Security Survey Yields Digital Confidence Index of 58

Americans are more than twice as likely to believe that government needs to make protecting our information systems and networks a higher priority (65 percent) as they are to believe that government is placing the right emphasis on this effort (29 percent).

CSIA's second Internet Security National Survey of 1,151 adults* reveals that adults are not confident in the safety of the various networks that have become an integral part of modern life, such as the Internet, the telecommunications network and the power grid. The consequences of this insecurity include the finding that nearly half of Internet users are not likely to make purchases on-line. Given that the public rates their confidence in the collective networks as only 58 on a scale from 10 to 100, Americans are clearly looking for leadership from government and the private sector when it comes to assurance that the networks work as intended.

The Digital Confidence Index Score

Americans are much more likely to believe that the networks of interconnected computers and machines that facilitate modern life are working well than they are to believe that the networks are safe. On a scale of 1 to 10, more than half of adults give the Internet (74 percent), the telecommunications network (61 percent), the financial network (61 percent) and the power grid (56 percent) scores of 7 or higher.

Yet when it comes to assessing the safety of these networks from failure — whether from natural disaster, outside attack or random malfunction — no more than 30 percent of adults is willing to say that any of the networks is safe (a score of 7 or higher). When the respondents' views on the effectiveness and safety of 6 major networks are aggregated and placed on a scale from 10 to 100, the Digital Confidence Index Score is 58. In other words, Americans are neither certain about the security of their networks nor are they panicking, but instead they are somewhat anxious.

On-Line Holiday Sales Falling Short of Their Potential

One of the ways this anxiety reveals itself is in the lack of willingness on the part of Internet users to risk their financial information on-line. Americans are more likely to think that identity theft happens on-line (43 percent) than away from a computer (40 percent). Even though 79 percent of Internet users think they are good at protecting their computers from destructive software that arrives unwanted from the Internet, 48 percent of Internet users avoid making purchases on the Internet because they are afraid their financial information may get stolen.

While the same number of Internet users (48 percent) are confident their information is safe, the intensity of their belief is much less strong than the intensity of the fearful users. Only 17 percent of users believe strongly that their financial information is safe when they make purchases on the Internet, while 32 percent of users believe strongly that their financial information may get stolen. This insecurity suggests that the on-line retail numbers this holiday season may only reach half their potential.

Of the 74 percent of Internet users who make on-line purchases at least occasionally, most spend less than $50 a month. A quarter (25 percent) spend $20 or less a month, 29 percent spend $21 to $50, 18 percent spend $51 to $100 and 21 percent spend more than $100 a month. The top items purchased are clothing (24 percent); books, information and magazines (20 percent); music and videos (11 percent); home products (11 percent); and computer-related products and services (10 percent).

Network Fears

When presented with some of the things that could go wrong with the various networks, Americans are most concerned about the ability of a sexual predator to communicate with a child over the Internet (95 percent concerned; 85 percent very concerned) and the sale by a data broker of personal information to organized crime (91 percent concerned; 74 percent very concerned). In contrast, the public is concerned to a lesser degree that a terrorist attack may bring down the Internet temporarily (70 percent concerned; 41 percent very concerned). When asked to choose between either "enemy nations, organized crime and terrorist organizations" or "small-time con artists and delinquent teenagers" as the biggest threats to the Internet, 46 percent of adults choose the latter compared to only 40 percent for the former.

America is Looking for Leadership

While network security is not atop the list of issues voters want politicians to deal with in the upcoming election season, the public is nonetheless looking for leadership from the federal government. Only 25 percent of voters say that security of our information systems is one of the first things they want to hear from politicians, compared to 67 percent who say they want to hear about issues like jobs and the environment before network security.

Yet despite all the attention paid to the identity theft issue since the last Internet Security survey in May, voters are still as likely as before to think that new laws need to be written to protect consumer privacy on the Internet (71 percent in May, 72 percent in November). More than twice as many adults are likely to believe that the burden falls on government to make the Internet safe for consumers (64 percent) rather than leaving it to market forces (26 percent). As we have seen, more than twice as many adults believe that government needs to make protecting our information systems and networks a higher priority (65 percent) than believe that government is placing the right emphasis on network protection (29 percent).

A Digital Confidence Index score of 58 (out of a 100) represents less than a passing grade for those who have an interest in making our networks safe, such as the federal government and technology companies. If the May survey sounded a call for coordinated action on network security, the current survey demonstrates that the public does not perceive that the call has yet been heeded. One of the immediate by-products of this lack of action will be a holiday season that does not come close to living up to its on-line retail potential.

Survey Methodology

From November 12 to November 19, 2005, Pineda Consulting conducted a national telephone survey of drawn from a random digit sample of telephone numbers selected from telephone exchanges in the United States. Of the 1,151 respondents who completed the survey, 916 are likely voters and 872 are Internet users. The total margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 2.89 percent. The margin of error for the various demographic subgroups is higher.

Calculating the Digital Confidence Index Score

The answers of each respondent on the battery of 6 network effectiveness questions and the battery of 6 network safety questions were added together. Both batteries employed a scale between 1 and 10, so the value of the respondent's answer was added to the total. If the respondent did not know enough to assess or refused to answer, 5.5 (the midpoint between 1 and 10) was added to the total. Once each question from the two batteries was considered, each respondent had a total between 10 and 120. The total was then divided by 12, giving each respondent's average response to the two batteries (a number between 1 and 10). Finally, the average was multiplied by 10, removing the decimal point and resulting in a number between 10 and 100 - the Digital Confidence Index Score.

About Pineda Consulting

Pineda Consulting is a strategic research and communications firm located in Pasadena, California. The firm's principal is André Pineda, the former Deputy Commissioner of Corporations for the State of California. Pineda's polling experience includes Peter D. Hart Research Associates, where he worked on the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, and Greenberg Research, conducting polls for Fortune 500 clients like BP. More information about Pineda Consulting can be found at

* Conducted by Pineda Consulting between November 12-19, 2005; margin of error: ±2.89 percent.