Most Americans Don’t Know What 2FA is, Pew Research Shows

Most U.S. adults have inadequate general knowledge about cybersecurity, privacy, and a host of other aspects of their digital life.

A person’s digital knowledge is much more relevant than people think, and proof of that is the latest “Americans and Digital Knowledge” study from the Pew Research Center. Most Americans are unable to correctly identify the answer to a few essential questions about their online security and right to privacy.

Pew Research Center addressed posed 10 questions to 4,272 adults living in the United States, with multiple choice answers available. Six questions directly impacted users’ privacy and online security but, with a few exceptions, people were in the dark.

The biggest issue revealed by the survey was that only 28% of respondents were able to identify an example of two-factor authentication from images. 2FA, or two-factor authentication, is a security measure that secures online accounts with a second type of login credentials, usually in the form of an SMS or email. Even if an attacker steals a victim’s username and password for a particular online service, he can’t take over the account because he doesn’t have access to the user’s phone or email.

The inability to correctly identify a 2FA solution likely means that people are not using one. This is crucial, because it’s the best way to secure Google or iCloud accounts in a way that makes them impervious to most attacks.

As for private browsing, 24% don’t know that using incognito mode in the Internet browser only means that users on the same computer don’t have access to each other’s data. ISPs and other third-party entities continue to have access.

Only 30% of people knew the meaning of https:// and recognized that data entered into a website using it means it’s encrypted. On the other hand, 45% of respondents knew about the concept of net neutrality.

The good news is that 67% correctly identified phishing scams and how they can be attempted via social networks, websites, emails or text messages. The correct answers are correlated as well with the level of education, and adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree answered an average of six questions correctly.