Many of my readers know my thoughts on the importance of cybersecurity, so when a new report crossed my desk, I was eager to dig in. We all know there are a number of file-sharing systems on the market, and yet, the majority of people still turn to email to share their files. But is it safe? This new report says, not so much.

Research from NordLocker shows people mostly use email to share their files, with 58% of people using it in the United States and 56% in the United Kingdom. Other common ways people share files are cloud services, messaging apps, and external drives. Interestingly, file transfer services like WeTransfer were the least popular among the respondents.

Oliver Noble, encryption specialist, NordLocker, warns email is one of the most popular targets for cyberattacks, and yet people still trust it. Makes you wonder what the heck are we thinking? And more importantly, how happy are we making all the bad guys who are just smiling at our own email ignorance?

Sadly, more than half of the respondents admit to having fallen victim to a malicious cyber activity at least once. Ironically, those who have been victims of cyberattacks admit that they tend to take their digital security more seriously, according to the survey. In fact, roughly 39% of U.S. users who haven’t experienced any malicious cyber activity don’t protect their files. Seriously. That number just frightens me to death. I will bet those are the same people who think they can text and drive too! And as you can expect that number decreases to only 16% among those who have.

What Do We Protect?

So what is worth protecting? This is where things get interesting. Despite many of the similar responses throughout this survey, there are differences in what users consider as private information and how valuable they think it is. For example, U.S. users equally value their tax records, personally identifiable information, and medical records, with 72% of respondents who store these types of files on their computers considering this information as very and extremely valuable. Personal photos and work-related data also made the list, albeit further down on the list.

In comparison, users from the United Kingdom value their photos more than any other type of files they store on their computers. Interesting, right? A close second is personally identifiable information and medical records, then work-related data, and tax records come in next on the list.

How Do We Protect It?

So now that we know what is worth protecting, let’s dig into how people protect these files. In both countries, every second person shares their personal computer with other people, meaning spouses, children, or parents. As security risks increase when more than one person has access to a computer, people tend to protect their files in one way or another. Here’s the numbers. 75% of respondents claim they use some sort of protection for their files, with passwords being the most popular. Only 16% say they used encrypted cloud storage, while 12% say they practice hiding their files on a computer manually.

Here’s the rub. Even though the safest way to protect files is encryption, few people are actually doing it. I love how Noble puts it: cybersecurity is still murky waters to some computer users and public education on the matter needs improvement.

I agree education is important. But I think we need more than just education, because we have been educating for years, but we are missing the mark completely. Plan and simple. Education is great, but we now need action. We need to be good stewards of our information. The time is now, because if we don’t, I can guarantee the hackers will teach us a very costly lesson.

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