Safer Internet Day 7 February

Microsoft research, released today (6 February 2012), highlights that 78% of respondents have basic online security protection, but are less knowledgeable about how to defend against cybercrime threats that rely on deception such as phishing, identity theft and fraudulent links.

The findings are based on the Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI) which gathered responses from more than 11,000 people in 27 countries to examine their adoption of proven online tools and behaviours. Respondents were awarded points for proactive security practices to arrive at an overall MCSI score out of 100.

The average MCSI score across all 27 countries was 44, and hints at a shift in potential exposure from software-based threats towards more socially engineered threats. The survey shows that while many consumers are using firewalls, anti-virus software and strong passwords, further education is needed on the actions and tools that can help protect against socially engineered threats that deceive victims to steal from them. Over half (56 per cent) of respondents do not educate themselves about preventing identity theft and 73 per cent do not educate themselves about the latest steps to protect their online reputation.

The MCSI survey demonstrates that consumers are taking measures to ensure a safer computing experience and to combat the technical threats they most often experience, such as unknown emails, popups, spyware and viruses, with 85 per cent installing anti-virus protection to deal with malware and spyware.

However, as cybercriminals adopt increasingly sophisticated and devious tactics, the research indicates that many consumers are potentially vulnerable to social engineering attacks and are not taking the precautions to guard against cybercriminals that use deception to steal money and personal information. For example, only half of people change their social networking privacy settings to limit what information they share and just 29 per cent say they use phishing and web browser filters.

Microsoft’s commitment to keeping families safe online

A total of 600 Microsoft employees across 20 European countries are volunteering to support Safer Internet Day to assist in addressing this changing landscape and in recognition that families, and children in particular, need access to the latest information and training on to protect themselves online. They aim to train around 98,345 children, teachers and parents about how to effectively help protect children online, underlining Microsoft’s commitment to fostering digital citizenship and improving lives through technology. “We are absolutely delighted to take part in Safer Internet Day and our employee volunteering activities underlines Microsoft’s commitment to creating awareness on how children and families can safely enjoy their internet experience. The research highlights the immediate need to guide people of all ages across Europe on responsible internet use, and Safer Internet Day is a great way of bringing this issue to the forefront of people's minds,” says Sylvie Laffarge, Citizenship & Public Affairs Director Europe, Microsoft.

There are a range of tools designed to mitigate online risks, including Windows 7 Parental Controls, Windows Live Family Safety 2011, and Zune and Windows Media Center family safety settings, allowing parents to restrict online content based on a child’s age. Windows Internet Explorer 9 Parental Controls allow parents to view specific and detailed information about their child’s online activity. Xbox Parental Controls help parents restrict their child’s ability to play inappropriate content, such as from games or DVDs.

Key Findings

  • Over half (57 per cent) said they run software updates and/or turn on automatic updates.
  • Over a third (39 per cent) of respondents do not educate themselves on protecting their online reputation or preventing and correcting identify theft.
  • 61 per cent have created passwords using upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Over half (51 per cent) said they have conducted transactions on reputable sites only.
  • When asked how to protect their security online, half said they have turned and left on their firewall.
  • Only 18 per cent have installed anti-virus or spyware software on their mobile phones.

Age group findings

Index score across age groups











  • The Index finds that younger age groups are familiar to social threats. Over two thirds (69 per cent) of 14-24 year olds changed their social networking privacy settings to limit what information they share, which is double the amount (34 per cent) of the 45-59 age group.
  • Younger people are also more likely to use search engines to monitor and manage their personal information online, with 40 per cent of 25-29 year olds actioning this, compared to 22 per cent of the 45-59 age category
  • 62 per cent of 14-24 year olds create screen names and/or gamer tags that are not their real name. They are also scored highest (68 per cent) in creating passwords using upper and lower case letters, numbers and/or symbols.
  • 25-29 year olds are more likely (32 per cent) than other age groups to educate themselves about the latest steps to take to protect their online reputation with 71 per cent changing their social networking privacy settings to limit what information they share.
  • 30-44 year olds scored highest in installing anti-virus/spyware/malware software on their PC and/or laptop with 87 per cent claiming to have done so. 61 per cent of 30-44 year olds also said they run software updates and/or turn on automatic updates.

Gender findings

Index score based on gender





  • Males ranked higher in the overall Index with an average score of 45.02 compared to females at 42.52. The results showed that males are more likely to run software updates, leave firewalls on and use phishing and web browser filters than females.

Parent and non-parent findings

Index score based on parental status





  • Non-parents ranked higher across the majority of online safety areas compared to parents.
  • The higher score for non-parents is in part a result of the types of activities younger people engage in online. For example, 41 per cent of non-parents edited information about themselves which may affect their online reputation, compared to only 23 per cent of parents, while over half (52 per cent) of non-parents created pseudo names and/or gamer tags compared to 31 per cent of parents.

Interpreting the MCSI

0-19. Get Back to Basics – A score in this range indicates users may not be taking advantage of the most basic—and oftentimes free—protections available.

20-79. Take It Up a Notch – Scores in this broad range suggest users have the basics covered, but opportunities exist to learn about new and emerging threats, particularly in the social realm.

80-100. Stay the Course – A score in this range shows users are well-aware of the various threats—both existing and emerging—as well as the steps necessary to help guard against them.

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