Consumers’ Online Security Concerns Rising

Tim Scannell

Updated · Aug 19, 2005

The seemingly never-ending barrage of fraud and identity theft on the Internet this year has continued to drive consumer fears skyward, according to a survey released today by RSA Security and LightSpeed

However, the survey also shows that consumers are still willing to increase the amount of personal business they do online, provided banks and other online services
offer them strong authentication.

Nearly half of the 8,000 people responding to the study said they would
switch to bank or business accounts that offered strong authentication
options. And two-thirds were willing to move more of their transactions to
online services offering a hardware authenticator.

“Consumers clearly want to stay active online, but they have effectively
thrown down the gauntlet for the banks, brokerages, Web e-mail services,
auction sites, and myriad other businesses to whom they entrust their
personal information,” Chris Young, vice president of consumer
authentication services at RSA Security, said in a statement.

The findings, Young points out, provide a contrast to the February 2005
RSA Security study that showed security concerns were forcing many consumers
offline completely. In that survey, nearly one-fourth of respondents were
reducing their online shopping and one-fifth said they wouldn’t work with
their financial institutions over the Internet.

“Just when consumers were beginning to understand the required elements
of secure electronic commerce — such as lock icons on their browsers — they
have been plunged into the realization that attackers are working hard to
extract and exploit personal information,” Trent Henry, a senior analyst with the
Burton Group, said in a statement. “As a result, enterprises are looking for
ways to improve the technologies and processes used by customers in the
online realm, both to rebuild trust and to reduce the likelihood of identity
theft and related problems.”

Although the fear of scammers still exist, this latest survey suggests
banks and other online merchants still have an opportunity to gain trust.

“These account providers are therefore facing an extraordinary business
opportunity,” Young said. “By offering hardware authenticators, they can up
the volume of online transactions, thus increasing the lifetime value of
their customers while reducing transaction and retention costs. There are
also ample soft benefits, including greater customer satisfaction and trust
and confidence in the company brand.”

The survey also said 40 percent more consumers were very likely to
subscribe to such a network than were very likely to sign up for tokens that
work on individual sites. Slightly less than 83 percent of all respondents
felt threatened or extremely threatened by identity theft, and 83.2 percent
felt threatened or extremely threatened by online fraud.

These fears extended at nearly identical levels across all types of
online account holders, though Web mail and portal users showed the highest
percentage of extreme concern. With regard to specific accounts, respondents
were most concerned about fraudulent access to their online bank accounts.

“Given these security concerns even among the most ardent and
sophisticated of online consumers, delivering stronger forms of protection
against online account fraud must be a top priority,” said Young. “Whether
it’s building a service that offers a single authentication method across
multiple web accounts, or providing a choice of easy-to-use devices that
match a consumer’s lifestyle and tech-savvy, businesses can no longer wait
to educate and protect consumers online.”

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