Majority of Americans concerned about cyberattacks on critical groups: poll

Majority of Americans concerned about cyberattacks on critical groups: poll
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The vast majority of Americans are concerned about cyberattacks on critical groups, in particular those in the financial and national security sectors, a poll released Monday found. 

The poll, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and the University of Chicago’s Pearson Institute, found that around three-quarters of those surveyed are especially concerned about cyberattacks from the Russian and Chinese governments, while just over half were concerned about attacks from cybercriminal groups. 

There was a high level of concern around attacks on financial institutions, with over 90 percent of respondents very or somewhat concerned about threats to their data as a result of these attacks. Over 90 percent of respondents were also similarly concerned about attacks on national security and defense systems, healthcare groups, and the electricity sector. 


“The public is clearly worried about cyber-attacks, and many Americans see such attacks as a potential result of international conflict,” Sheila Kohanteb, the executive director of External Relations at the Pearson Institute, said in a statement. “The survey results show Americans are far more concerned about cyber-attacks from China and Russia than those from other governments, groups, or individuals.” 

There was a significant split in concerns based on the age of respondents. Over 75 percent of respondents over the age of 60 were concerned about cyberattacks, while less than half of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 were similarly concerned. Older adults were also more concerned about attacks from the Russian or Chinese governments than younger adults, according to the survey. 

“The study highlights significant and important generational differences in attitudes toward cybersecurity and foreign governments,” Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center, said in a statement. “These findings also provide evidence of broad potential support for policies designed to increase protection against cyber-attacks on U.S. institutions.”

The poll was conducted over a week in September, with over 1,000 U.S. adults responding either through online survey or phone interview. The poll results were released days after AP-NORC and the Pearson Institute unveiled results from a previous poll that looked at Americans' concerns around the spread of misinformation. 

The findings were released after a difficult year in cybersecurity for the nation, with multiple major cyberattacks impacting both government and private sector groups. 

The Russian government was linked to the SolarWinds hack, discovered in December, which involved the breach of numerous U.S. federal agencies and 100 private sector groups for much of 2020 as part of an espionage operation.

Only months later, Chinese, government-linked hackers exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server to compromise thousands of groups. 

Ransomware attacks have also run rampant. Attacks in May on Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA by separate Russian-based cyber criminal groups endangered key supply chains, while schools, hospitals, and government groups were hit hard throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Biden administration has taken action both domestically and internationally in the wake of the attacks, with President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE levying sanctions on Russia in April in connection to the SolarWinds hack, and the U.S. and allied nations formally blaming the Chinese government for the Microsoft Exchange Server exploitation this summer. 

Biden also signed an executive order to strengthen federal cybersecurity May, and numerous agencies have made confronting ransomware attacks a priority.