Three in Four Americans Admit to Unsafe Online Behavior

(Image credit: Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)

PHILADELPHIA—With a record number of connected devices expected to flood into homes during this holiday season, Comcast’s newly released Xfinity Cyber Health Report indicates that the vast majority of Americans are not taking proper precautions to deal with the cybersecurity threats these devices can pose. 

The new Comcast survey found that more than three in four Americans (78 percent) admit to risky online behaviors that open them up to cyber threats, such as reusing or sharing passwords and skipping software updates. And despite widespread publicity regarding the problems cyberattacks can create, that alarming level of unsafe behavior up 14% from just two years ago, Comcast reported. 

The report, which combines data from a new consumer survey with actual threat data collected by Xfinity’s xFi Advanced Security platform, also reveals that the service, which is free for Xfinity customers who lease a capable Xfinity gateway, has blocked nearly 10 billion cybersecurity threats since launching less than five years ago.

"Our Xfinity Cyber Health Report demonstrates that, despite more awareness about the prevalence of cybersecurity risks, we have to continue to be diligent to ensure our devices in homes, and the people using them, stay safe,” said Noopur Davis, executive vice president, chief information security officer and product privacy officer, Comcast. “The digital security of our customers is our top priority. As the number and complexity of cyber threats grow each day, we use smart tools and technologies across our network to offer multiple layers of protection to help keep our customers safe.”

The Xfinity Cyber Health Report summarizes cyber threat trends from Xfinity’s xFi Advanced Security, the growing list of devices in connected homes, and a view into consumers’ attitudes and behaviors around cyber protection. Key findings include:

  • Connected Homes Are Expanding and So Is Attack Volume: Xfinity xFi homes average 15 connected devices, up 25 percent from 2020. Power users average 34 devices. And 58 percent of consumers plan to buy at least one connected device this holiday season. xFi Advanced Security blocks an average of 23 unique threats per home each month – with the total number of attacks at least three-to-four times that number, since many attacks are repeated.
  • Consumers Still Underestimate Threats: Nearly three fourths (74 percent) of Americans believe less than 10 attacks hit their home network every month. 61 percent believe devices are protected from threats right out-of-the-box at purchase. This leaves many new devices open to potential threats without protection.
  • Consumers Unsure They’d Know They’ve Been Hacked: When asked how soon they would know whether they were a victim of a cyberattack, only 20 percent said immediately. Another 32 percent said they aren’t sure they’d ever know if they were a victim of a cyberattack. And 51 percent of respondents noted they are not confident that they would know if a non-screen device was hacked, such as a robot vacuum or a smart plug.
  • Emerging Device Vulnerabilities Misunderstood: Computers and smartphones remain the top two targeted devices consistent with findings in 2020. While consumers recognize the risks associated with these two device types, they underestimate the risk with emerging devices in their homes. In fact, xFi Advanced Security blocked threats to smart watches, lighting, thermostats, doorbells, garage openers, sports and fitness equipment, sprinkler systems and even cars, drones and pet accessories.
  • Generational Cyber Divide: 70 percent of Boomers admit to unsafe behaviors compared with Gen X (82 percent), Millennials (83 percent) and Gen Z (87 percent). Gen Z had the lowest awareness of common threats such as phishing and malware. 77 percent of Millennials are likely to buy a connected device this holiday season, the most for any segment surveyed.

In addition to the network and consumer data, the 2022 Xfinity Cyber Health Report includes insights from Asad Haque, Comcast’s executive director of security architecture, regarding connected home security with Matter and xPKI; a technology primer on Comcast’s threat analytics platform from David White, vice president, security engineering at Comcast; an overview of the role of Comcast’s xGitGuardTM software in data privacy from Bahman Rashidi, Ph.D., director, cybersecurity & privacy engineering research; and five actionable tips for consumers on securing their connected home.

As the largest broadband provider in the U.S. serving more than 32 million internet customer households, Comcast provides the xFi Advanced Security service to protect home networks from cyber threats and is free to all internet customers with the xFi Gateway who sign in through the Xfinity app. 

The survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, polled 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18 and older in November 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey. 

The full 2022 Xfinity Cyber Health Report is available here.  

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.