People feel safer on a PC than on a mobile device

Majority of people polled for new Symantec study feel more safe and secure going online with their home computers than with their mobile phones.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

If you feel safer online using your PC instead of your mobile phone, you are not alone.

A majority 87 percent of people polled for a new study think their home PCs offer better defense against viruses, malware, and hackers than do their mobile phones. Released today by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec, the study (PDF) also discovered that people may be overconfident in the power of their computers to protect them as less than half are using full security software.

Though only 24 percent of those polled said they feel very safe using their home computers to surf the Net, 61 percent said they feel somewhat safe. In contrast, just 18 percent said they feel very safe using their mobile phones to access the Web, while only 28 percent feel somewhat safe.

When asked if they run a complete security suite, 58 percent said yes. But Symantec's scans found only 37 percent fully protected. Symantec's definition of a complete security suite includes antivirus, firewall, antispyware, spam filtering, antiphishing, and identity protection. Like many of these polls, the companies doing the polling have a vested interest in the results--in this case Symantec sells its own complete security suite. But that by itself doesn't necessarily make the findings less credible or relevant.

The study also learned that people are connecting to the Internet from a wider array of devices. Half of those polled said they have two or three PCs at home, with 74 percent owning a laptop or Netbook. Almost 17 percent are able to access the Internet from their TV and 24 percent from a gaming console.

To surf the Net from all their gadgets, 70 percent have a Wi-Fi router at home. Some 85 percent of those people said their routers are password protected. But among all of those polled, 43 percent admitted to jumping onto Wi-Fi networks not secured by a password, a number that surged to 66 percent for those 18 to 29 years old.

"Computer users can run into online threats regardless of where they might be connected and what device they're using," Marian Merritt, Norton Internet Safety Advocate, said in a statement. "However, on a Wi-Fi network, there are other risks consumers can run into, like 'evil twin' networks that trick people into connecting to unknown networks, giving cybercriminals access to their computer and its contents. Consumers should ensure they're connecting to a legitimate network, using the access keys or portal given to them by the Wi-Fi provider."

Only 5.1 percent of those surveyed think the Internet is safer than it was a year ago, while 68 percent feel it's about the same, and 21.2 percent believe it's less safe. Half of those polled cited identify theft as a major concern. Overall, 44 percent of the respondents see themselves as responsible for their own online safety. Only 30 percent believe keeping the Internet secure is the responsibility of Internet providers, while just 4 percent feel it's the government's job.

To compile the study, the NCSA commissioned a survey of 3,498 Americans, while Symantec ran an analysis on some 400 PCs.