The Ubiquity of Cyber-Fears

A new study concludes that more people are worried about cyber threats than terrorism.

...the three highest priorities for Americans when it comes to security issues in the presidential campaign are:

  1. Protecting government computer systems against hackers and criminals (74 percent)

  2. Protecting our electric power grid, water utilities and transportation systems against computer or terrorist attacks (73 percent)

  3. Homeland security issues such as terrorism (68 percent)

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 11:31 AM • 16 Comments


JonMay 24, 2012 11:38 AM

You have a typo in your first sentence there.

With all the recent hype about cyber terrorism, I'm not surprised that people are worried about it.

charlieMay 24, 2012 11:44 AM

Seems that the propaganda campaign has been largely successful. We'll see how long the internet can hold back the tide of overreaching "cyber" legislation. But with that level of public FUD, it seems all but inevitable.

dmcMay 24, 2012 12:08 PM

I'd say it's quite reasonable to be more worried about cyber threats than terrorism. Not, perhaps, terribly worried, but more worried.

JoeMay 24, 2012 12:27 PM

I am more worried about the idiotic government legislation that always follow fears about something. That is far more permanent and ultimately could be more destructive than any cyber terrorism.

No OneMay 24, 2012 12:29 PM

@Joe: I agree, I want to see the percentages for "preventing overreaching laws from coming into practice due to overreacting from a position of fear."

BrandonMay 24, 2012 12:31 PM

↑ What Joe said. ↑

I'd also note that 74%, 73%, 68% is more like a dead heat than people being truly more afraid of one over the other. What's the margin of error in this survey?

I'd agree with Charlie, noting this simply provides feedback about the success of the FUD campaign ... which, then, leads to the consequences Joe speaks of.

cbarnMay 24, 2012 1:58 PM

What's missing, of course, is the followup question: on a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about your preceding answer.

I'd bet the survey only offered choices of which security threat you feel is most important from among a fixed set, without an option to say "none of these". That's far different from asking if you think a particular security threat is actually a major concern.

Michael BradyMay 24, 2012 3:01 PM

Follow the money. The GWOT is winding down (and will eventually join SDI and the War on Drugs as a perennial line item), but the cyber warriors and their civilians contractors have not be slopped yet.

LinuxMay 24, 2012 3:13 PM

Unisys got their money's worth out of this study (of 1k households).

A cybersecurity company (Unisys) pays for a study that shows Americans really, really, really want more cybersecurity.

Oh yea, Americans also want the Federal Government to pay more attention (money) to cybersecurity.

Did anyone mention that a major source of Unisys's revenue is Federal CyberSecurity Contracts?

There may be a higher number of sites/blogs presenting this study as authoritative,
than the number of households the study polled for data.

It seems that's the bigger story here.

David ShayerMay 24, 2012 5:10 PM

Too many people watched Live Free or Die Hard and thought it was a documentary.

Dirk PraetMay 24, 2012 6:56 PM

@ Linux

Spot on. The report is a perfect example of how you can statistically prove almost anything you want as long as you use the right metrics. Given the "Unisys security index" put forward in it, the results would only have been different in a 3rd world country (or Greece) where people would be just a tad more likely to see bigger issues with meeting their financial obligations than caring about government infrastructure, cybercrime or terrorists. Social security was conveniently left out and physical health limited to a major epidemic. From where I'm sitting, this is complete felgerkarb.

w1thh3ldMay 25, 2012 12:22 PM

I thought this interesting to add to the fear vs risk discussion:

About the Etan Patz story Laura Trevelyan says (in the 'Analysis' box)

"Etan's disappearance ... prompted American parents to curb their children's independence."

Yes, some bad things might happen. But you have to weigh the costs of your protective measures.

gabeJune 2, 2012 10:31 PM

Why should I at all be worried about "Protecting government computer systems against hackers and criminals"? That seems like something that's "not my problem".

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