Safety is an active verb

When we are young, we are taught to brush our teeth in order to develop healthy and preventative habits.  Hopefully by the time we reach adulthood, the act of brushing every morning has become second nature.  Yet, when we go online, we don’t always take the same preventative measures with our personal information.  Perhaps it’s because we haven’t placed enough importance on developing this healthy habit?

Today, Microsoft released the US results of the third Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI).   Designed to gauge consumer online safety habits and behaviors, the Index reveals that the US score has decreased year-after-year since it was first launched in 2011.  

So why the drop?  The data reveals that while people are not necessarily engaging in risky behaviors, they miss active steps to thwart socially-engineered risks.  For example; in 2011, 60 percent of respondents reported using only reputable sites compared to 39 percent in 2013.   In addition, less than half of US respondents are still not taking actions such as limiting the amount of personal information they share online, dropping from 48 percent in 2011, to 40 percent in 2013.  Nor are they using phishing filters to help stay safer, 30 percent in 2011 compared to only 18 percent in 2013.  On average, US respondents are using less than one quarter of the 12 technical tools available for managing online safety, are being used.

The good news: default settings are keeping consumers safer than they realize.  While US respondents report using only half of the foundational settings (automatic updates, antivirus software, firewall protections, secured wireless, up-to-date software), after checking, most actually are better protected than they thought (almost four out of five).

Broken out into three tiers of activity – “Foundational,” “Technical+,” and “Behavioral” – the Index assigns a point scale of 0 to 100 based on an individual’s answers.  The more steps taken in any given tier, the higher the score.

Didn’t participate in the formal survey?  We’ve created an abbreviated version so you can see how you measure up.  Go to and take stock of your personal online habits and practices to learn how you compare to US respondents.    

Just like looking both ways before crossing the street, it’s never too late to begin developing safer online habits. Microsoft suggests these top three tips to help people worldwide stay safer online – at home, at work, and on the go.

  • Protect your computer and your accounts.  Keep all software (including your browser) current with automatic updating and install legitimate antivirus and antispyware software.

  • Look for signs that a webpage is secure and legitimate. Before you enter sensitive data, check for evidence of encryption, meaning a web address with https (“s” stands for secure), and a closed padlock beside it. (The lock might also be in the lower right corner of the window.)

  • Reduce spam in your inbox. Share your primary email address and instant messaging name only with people you know in person and with reputable organizations. Avoid listing them on your social network page, in Internet directories (like white pages), or on job-posting sites.

No matter where or how people access the Internet, exercising safer digital habits needs to remain part of our daily routine.   For additional guidance, regularly check our Safety & Security Center, where all of our tools and materials are located, including our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  Get proactive and get involved – in online safety.  

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous

    My Mother just cancelled her Hotmail account due to Microsoft forcing an INVASION OF HER PRIVACY upon her in order for her to log into her account. Microsoft threatened her that without providing personal information of either another personal e-mail account or personal phone number she would not be able to log back into her account. My Mother never requested Microsoft to force upon her their perceived security measures.

    With the recent revelations of illegal NSA spying on innocent people of the world corporations have NO proof that they can provide any security. I encouraged my Mother to cancel both her Hotmail account and her account.

  2. Anonymous

    As I understand it, requiring subscribers to give some personal information is a means of discouraging criminals from becoming subscribers. It's a nuisance for the vast majority of people who are law-abiding, but you can see why Microsoft and others do it as a protection.

    I hope your mother is now well suited with another account.

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