Online consumers seek out stronger security

Online service providers will have to improve their authentication measures or lose out to competitors, an international survey has concluded.

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Online service providers will have to improve their authentication measures or lose out to competitors, an international survey has concluded.

Most users of online services want stronger forms of authentication, according to the sixth annual online consumer security survey by RSA, the security division of EMC.

Demand is highest among online bankers (80%), followed by users of government websites (70%), healthcare services (64%) and social networking sites (59%).

Awareness of phishing attacks doubled between 2007 and 2009 to 76%. At the same time, the number of consumers who reported falling prey to phishing increased six times during that period to 29%.

While hundreds of thousands of people join social networking websites each day, the survey found that nearly two in three said they are less likely to share information due to growing security concerns.

Most users of online banking (86%) and social networks (81%) are concerned about the safety of personal information.

This makes security a proven competitive advantage for service providers, said Mark Crichton, business development manager for Europe for RSA's anti-fraud products.

"A bank that recently introduced a higher level of authentication for its online customers saw a 20% increase in transaction rates within the first month," he said.

Service providers have been reluctant to introduce higher levels of authentication for fear of putting off users, but the survey shows attitudes are changing, said Crichton.

Nine in 10 respondents said they would be willing to use stronger forms of authentication if they were available.

Social networking sites and other service providers will have to work harder to assure users that their personal information is protected properly, said Crichton.

"We are likely to see an increasing number of partnerships with security firms as service providers seek advantage through greater privacy assurance," he said.

Crichton expects this trend to accelerate as hackers find increasingly sophisticated ways of stealing personal information online that can be used in other channels.

"Telephone numbers stolen from social networking sites, for example, could be used to commit fraud through social engineering methods over the telephone," he said.

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