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Hip to Heartbleed: 39% of users took steps to protect themselves

A Pew Research study also found that 29 percent of Internet users believe their personal information is at risk, while 6 percent of users believe their information was swiped.


Here's a side effect of the widespread Heartbleed security vulnerability: Internet users are suddenly more concerned about their personal information.

Heartbleed shook up the Internet over the last few weeks when it was discovered that a flaw in a widely used encryption code allowed hackers to obtain information from supposedly secure servers. It hit major websites such as Yahoo. Most worrisome: the vulnerability has been around for roughly two years, despite coming to light earlier this month.


The result has been more vigilance about security. A survey of about 1,500 people taken by Pew Research from April 23 to 27 found that 39 percent of Internet users are taking steps to protect their online information due to Heartbleed, either by changing their passwords or cancelling accounts.

Concern is also on the rise. Nearly a third of users believe their personal information was put at risk because of the bug, while 6 percent of users believe their personal information was stolen.

Overall, the study found that 46 percent of users believe their information is "somewhat secure," 23 percent believe it is "very secure," and 26 percent say it is "not too secure" or "not at all secure."

Awareness is relatively high. The study said 60 percent of the public had heard at least a little about Heartbleed. Those who had heard about the security problem tended to be relatively well educated and earned more money. Pew Research said 77 percent of those with a college education had heard of Heartbleed, along with 75 percent of those living in households earnings $75,000 or more.

While Heartbleed made headlines for its widespread vulnerabilities, the study showed that there was less awareness for the bug than other major news events, including the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Last year's National Security Agency leaks and Edward Snowden garnered more awareness as well, the study said.

The news registered the same level of public awareness as the US-Iran negotiations and agreement to allow monitoring of Iran's nuclear program late last year, Pew Research said.

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