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UK firms need to work harder at trust online, survey shows

Warwick Ashford

UK firms need to work harder to address a serious lack of trust by customers who regularly shop and bank online, a survey has revealed.

One in four UK consumers do not trust any organisation with their personal data online, according to research by information security and risk management firm Integralis.

While 65% of the 1,000 UK consumers surveyed said they trust banks, this "trust factor" drops to 36% for online retailers, 34% for insurance companies, and 24% for supermarkets.

“Businesses should be concerned about is this intrinsic lack of trust by customers in online companies,” said Mick Ebsworth, information security consulting practice director at Integralis. 

While nearly two-thirds trust their banks the most online, 22% trust online payment systems such as PayPal above other options, and fewer than one in 10 trust a credit card provider the most.

“Even the banking sector, which comes out top of the trust factor, should wake up to the fact that some users do not trust their banks to look after their personal data online,” said Ebsworth.

“Organisations need to build information security into the DNA of their business, which will help build trust and confidence among existing customers while attracting new ones,” he said.

Despite the concerns about security and privacy online, the study also revealed that 79% of those polled regularly bank online and more than half shop for groceries online at least once a week.

Social networks were rated the least trusted organisations by 32% of those polled, yet 37% of social network users admitted they did not know how to change the privacy settings on the sites they use.

Only 10% believe smartphones and tablets are more secure than PCs and laptops, but 53% admit they do not update the security settings on their mobile devices regularly.

The survey showed that over half of respondents believe that having a strong password is the best way to protect their privacy online

“Despite their fears, customers seem ill-prepared to take precautions to protect themselves, and they are not demanding enough that service providers raise the level of trust,” said Ebsworth.

“It is interesting that most are happy to trust passwords to keep data secure online over much tougher methods, like secure ID tokens, SSL padlocked entry to personal information, data intrusion software, encryption, and even a combination of security options,” he said.

The research shows that the security industry needs to help consumers of online services, as well as providers of those services, to change their behaviour, Ebsworth told Computer Weekly.

“The industry has a lot more to do to help consumers and providers to make sure that all online transactions are done in the most secure way possible,” he said.

Service providers and even schools, said Ebsworth, also need to help better educate people to be more security conscious and to adopt their own security best practices.

The study also found that most consumers put personal apps on their own smartphones (71%) as well as company phones (62%), potentially exposing themselves and their companies to serious security risks.

Hackers and criminals are turning their attention to mobile platforms as people use them more for financial transactions.

Mobile malware threats increased 163% to more than 65,000 in 2012, according to the latest security report from global mobile internet services provider NQ Mobile.


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