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Friends, Will You Change Your Online Habits?

Today on international Safer Internet Day, Microsoft Corp. released the results of its second annual Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI).

It reveals that more than half (55 percent) of global respondents are experiencing multiple online risks, yet only 16 percent say they take multiple proactive steps to help protect themselves and their data.

This year the MCSI also examined mobile safety behaviors, uncovering that although less than half of respondents (42 percent) run software updates on their personal computers, only 28 percent run regular updates on their mobile devices, potentially compounding their risk.

“Mobile devices often have just as much, if not more, valuable personal information stored on them as a home computer, making mobile devices equally attractive to data-stealing criminals,” said Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft’s incoming chief online safety officer.

“The latest MCSI results demonstrate that no matter where or how people access the Internet, exercising safer online habits is essential. There are steps that people can take and technologies that they can employ to help prevent them from becoming a victim.”

The MCSI surveyed more than 10,000 PC, smartphone and tablet users in 20 countries and regions about their personal approach to online safety and assigned a point scale of 0 to 100 based on their answers.

The global average score was 34 for PC online safety and 40 for mobile. An abbreviated version of the MCSI is available at Microsoft Computing Safety Index Survey for people to check how savvy they are when it comes to online safety.

Other key worldwide findings from the MCSI include the following:

  • Theft of password or account information was cited as a concern for 47 percent of respondents, with 33 percent saying they use secure websites and 28 percent saying they avoid using open Wi-Fi spots on their mobile devices.
  • Forty-eight percent of respondents said they worry about computer viruses, with fewer than half (44 percent) turning and leaving on firewalls, and just more than half (53 percent) installing antivirus software on their PCs.
  • Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they worry about having their identity stolen, yet only 34 percent have a PIN (personal identification number) to unlock their mobile device, and just 38 percent say they educate themselves about the latest steps to help prevent identity theft.

Microsoft offers online safety tools and resources at http://www.Microsoft.com/security, including the following practical steps consumers can take to stay safer online:

  • Lock your computer and accounts with strong passwords and your mobile phone with a unique, four-digit PIN.
  • Do not pay bills, bank, shop or conduct other sensitive business on a public computer, or on your laptop or mobile phone over “borrowed” or public Wi-Fi (such as a hotspot).
  • Watch for snoops. People scouting for passwords, PINs, user names or other such data may be watching your fingers or the screen as you enter that data.
  • Treat suspicious messages cautiously. Avoid offers too good to be true and be wary of their senders, even if the messages appear to come from a trusted source.
  • Look for signs that a Web page is secure and legitimate. Before you enter sensitive data, check for evidence of encryption (e.g., a Web address with “https” and a closed padlock beside it or in the lower right corner of the window).
  • Reduce spam in your inbox. Share your primary email address and instant messaging name only with people you know or with reputable organizations. Avoid listing them on your social network page, in Internet directories (such as white pages) or on job-posting sites.

Countries surveyed in the MCSI were Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. The survey findings were released today, Feb. 5.

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