ST. LEO, FL – As Americans conduct more personal and business activities online, we also report feeling more wary about the things that can go wrong and more cognizant of the cyber threats that exist, a new survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows.

For instance, those who say that their data is either very secure or somewhat secure when using the Internet was 55.1 percent nationally, down significantly from the 72.1 percent reported the prior year, when the Saint Leo University Polling Institute last surveyed on cybersecurity.

The latest online survey was conducted nationally during Thanksgiving week between November 19 and November 24, 2017, among 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points in either directions. A separate sample of 500 adults answered the same questions in Florida, the home state of Saint Leo University and the Saint Leo University Polling Institute. Responses from Florida have a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points in either direction, but often mirror the national poll on this topic.

The results also shows this year a higher percentage of computer users report unease, compared to last year. Specifically, respondents gave these replies to the question:

In general, and overall, how secure is your personal data/information when using the Internet.
Would you say…very secure, somewhat secure, not very secure, not at all secure, or unsure?

Security of Personal Data While Using Internet National  % November 2016 National % November 2017 Florida % November 2016 Florida % November 2017
Very secure 14.7 12.3 19.6 13.8
Somewhat secure 57.4 42.8 54.5 43.8
Total of Very and Somewhat secure 72.1 55.1 74.1 57.6
Not very secure 17.2 29.9 17.2 26.6
Not at all secure 4.4 9.7 3.6 10.6
Total of Not very and Not at all secure 21.6 39.6 20.8 37.2
Unsure 6.3 5.3 5.2 5.2

More computer users are wary of networks, including those away from home, the survey also revealed. In 2016, for instance, 74 percent of respondents nationally reported that when they were shopping and saw invitation signs from stores, banks, or websites to “Sign in using our secure network,” they considered the “secure” statement either very believable or somewhat believable. In 2017, the combined percentage slipped nearly 10 percentage points to 64.1 percent. In Florida, trust eroded from 73.4 percent in 2016 to 66.4 percent this year.

More Reporting of Actual Malevolent Computer Intrusions
As for instances of actual harm, the 2017 survey found:

  • The percentage nationally of those reporting having been a victim of online theft of photo or information is 23.3 percent, compared to 19.6 percent in 2016. In Florida, 25.6 percent of respondents agree they have been a victim of online theft, compared to 21.8 percent in the prior year.
  • The percentage of those nationally who have either had to pay ransom ware to hacker-thieves who broke into their computer data—or know someone who has been victimized this way—escalated to 20.7 percent nationally, from 11 percent in 2016. Florida responses show the same pattern, with 22 percent of 2017 respondents saying they have either paid ransom ware or know someone who has. That compares to 11.6 percent last year.

Lapses on Self-Protective Behaviors
Dr. Marwan Omar, who teaches computer security and information systems at Saint Leo University, was particularly interested in what respondents shared about their own online behaviors. There was an uptick, for example, in the percent of people who say they regret posting online bits of information such as vacation plans, their whereabouts, or their contact information, to 20.7 percent in 2017 from 17.8 percent in 2016. The same happened with Florida respondents, with 24 percent in 2017 saying they regret such posts, compared to 20 percent in 2016.

To Dr. Omar, “This indicates that respondents may have fallen victims to identity theft—consistent with the above analysis on the identity-theft question. More respondents stated that they have been victims of identity theft and the numbers were higher from 2016 both on a state level and nationally,” he noted. “I think this is expected and may continue in the future because more and more of our lives go online every day, so we become more and more connected and the implication of this connectedness is that our openness can be used against us.”

The survey also indicates that computer users are not keeping pace with the protections they need to create and update for themselves as they rely more and more on computers, Dr. Omar said. He noted that less than half of national respondents, at 43.1 percent, say they change their online passwords as often as they should. That compares to 44.2 percent last year—which is statistically flat—in spite of the greater sense of wariness reported in the survey. Florida respondents were not any better, with 45.8 saying they change passwords as often as they should, compared to 49.2 percent in 2016.

Dr. Omar sympathized that password maintenance is a constant chore for online consumers. “This result could be due to the fact that Internet users are increasingly using the Web to do more and more of their daily life tasks, such as online banking, online shopping, and online bill paying, just to name a few,” he said. “The more online applications one uses, the more passwords one has, and the more passwords one has, the more inconvenient it is to change them so frequently.”

More results of the cybersecurity panel are visible at:

Media contacts:
Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).


About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,000 adult approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide. The survey was conducted November 19 through November 24, 2017. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.

Florida results were acquired by surveying a separate population of 500 respondents in the state. For these answers, poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.


About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving more than 13,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 90,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.