Little confidence in American cyber defenses

July 22, 2015, 2:23 PM UTC

Only a third of Americans are confident in the ability of either the government or major corporations to protect against cyber attacks

Earlier this month the NASDAQ stock exchange and United Airlines, were both taken out of action due to computer problems. Both companies denied that the problems were a result of any security breaches, but the consequences highlighted how vulnerable much of American society is to problems with computer systems - problems aren't always benign. The Office of Personnel Management, which keeps records for the employment of all federal employees, was attacked by hackers who are believed to have been working for the Chinese government and who managed to compromise the personal information of over 22 million people

Research from YouGov shows that Americans have little confidence in the ability of either the US government or corporations to prevent cyber attacks on computer systems in the United States. Only 31% of Americans are either 'very' or 'somewhat' confident in the cyber defenses of the government while 36% say the same about major companies. 61% are either 'not very' or 'not at all' confident in the government and 56% similarly lack confidence in major companies. 

Americans are generally reluctant to describe cyber attacks on companies as 'acts of war', if they were indeed committed by someone hostile to the United States. Only 26% of Americans say that hacking into private databases, such as NASDAQ's is an act of war, compared to 57% who say the same about hacking into databases of the federal government, which would include the Office of Personnel Management. 34% view disrupting the stock exchange as an act of war, while 37% say the same about grounding flights. Most Americans also say that it would be an act of war to shut down electricity grids (59%) or to steal military secrets (70%).

78% of Americans think that other countries do try to disrupt American computer systems. Most Americans (53%) also believe that the United States is currently doing the same thing to other countries. 

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.