Posted by: Jacqueline Beauchere, Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications 

 

Microsoft and Trustworthy Computing have been focused on raising public awareness and educating customers about online risks for years. We’ve created a wealth of educational resources, partnered with others, and improved our technology. We have a vision of creating a global “culture of online safety,” where Internet security is second-nature—like locking doors and fastening seatbelts.    

This year, to coincide with National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) and to help gauge industry progress, we conducted fresh research. The result is a new and innovative barometer, measuring the extent to which proven online tools and behaviors are being embraced by the digital public.

The Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) comprises data from five countries: Brazil, France, Germany, U.K., and the U.S.  Based on respondent’s answers, it assesses consumers’ online behaviors to yield an overall score between 0 and 100. The 2011 average score across all five geographies was 34; the U.S. Index was 37.

The scores suggest that people are comfortable with and knowledgeable about basic security measures, but opportunities exist to learn and do more, particularly when it comes to socially based threats. 

The MCSI is a weighted score comprised of three tiers of activity, with each level consisting of specific steps consumers can take to help protect themselves and their families when they go online—the more steps taken in any given tier, the higher the user’s score in that tier and thus, overall. Data were remarkably consistent across the five geographies.

I look at the Index as a sort of “report card” on the industry and its efforts to date with respect to Internet safety and security. Not surprisingly, the figures suggest that where a technology tool exists to help lighten the consumer’s load, users are availing themselves of such resources. They are knowledgeable and informed about the potential harm from viruses, worms, and other malware. They are less cognizant, however, of risks associated with some of their own, more socially driven behaviors. For instance, in the five countries, most consumers admitted to being indifferent about their online reputations. 

Still, the MCSI shows us there is more work to be done.  We need to continue to impress upon individuals the benefits of taking charge of their “digital dossiers.” Whether they realize it or not, consumers’ online reputations are being established, added to, detracted from, and transformed for much of the world to see. 

If you’d like to get your own, personal MCSI, take an abbreviated version of the survey at: MCSI online survey.  And, if you come across a subject you want to learn more about, consult our new toolkit:  Digital Citizenship in Action; it’s available free of charge, and includes a bevy of resources to help individuals, families, and organizations stay safer and more secure online.

TwC plans to release the multi-country and U.S. indices annually to coincide with NCSAM. 

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