Microsoft Invents New Way To Measure Online Safety (And Finds That Consumers Stink At It)

Computer users are taking steps to mitigate online security threats, but still only score a paltry 34 out of 100 – a solid “F” – according to a new study by Microsoft. 

Computer users are taking steps to mitigate online security threats, but still only score a paltry 34 out of 100 – a solid “F” – according to a new study by Microsoft. 

The study, sponsored by Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group (TwC), introduces a new metric, the Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) to measure online safety, but finds that consumers are having trouble getting past the basics when it comes to staying safe on the Internet.

The MCSI assigns a point value to a series of steps (more than 20 in all) that consumers can take to protect themselves online. Each point in turn is assigned to a tier of activity: Foundational (30 points), Technical (40 points) and Behavioral (30 points).

Actions like keeping strong passwords and choosing reputable Web sites fall under the Behavioral tier. Using a firewall, maintaining anti-virus software and running regular updates falls under the Foundational tier. The more steps you take, the higher your MCSI score, with 100 being the highest score possible.

Microsoft polled consumers in U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Brazil in what the company called a ‘benchmark survey.’ The average MCSI from that poll, 34, suggests users have the basics covered but have left lots of room to improve, Microsoft said.

Among the five countries, 55 percent of users use automatic computer updates and roughly 90 percent of those surveyed use anti-virus protection. Conversely, only 26 percent of users said they had confidence in their PC security software while only eleven percent agreed “good digital citizens” are winning the war against hackers.

The metric was developed in conjunction with the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Trustworthy Computing Group next year and was released as October, National Cyber Security Awareness Month, winds down.

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