The Pearson Institute and The Associated Press -NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 9 out of 10 Americans are at least slightly concerned about hacking that could affect their financial institutions or other utilities. Two-thirds of respondents say they are extremely or very concerned.
Nearly three quarters of Americans believe that the Chinese and Russian governments pose a threat to cybersecurity. At least half consider the Iranian government and other non-governmental bodies to be threatening.
This broad consensus highlights the increasing impact of cyberattacks on an increasingly connected world. It could help President Joe Biden and lawmakers boost efforts to force critical industries to improve their cyber defenses, and impose reporting requirements for those companies that are hacked. This poll is taking place amid high-profile ransomware attacks and cyber spying campaigns that have resulted in sensitive government records being compromised and the shut down of many energy companies, schools, and hospitals.
David Sterrett (a senior research scientist at the AP-NORC Center) stated that it is not common nowadays to find issues that both majorities of Republicans or Democrats consider a problem.
Biden made cybersecurity a priority in his new administration. Federal lawmakers are currently considering legislation to strengthen both private and public cyber defenses.
Michael Daniel, Cyber Threat Alliance CEO and an ex-top cybersecurity official under the Obama administration, stated that the poll showed that the public is well aware of the online threats that have been highlighted by cybersecurity experts for many years.
He said, "We don’t need to do much more awareness raising."
Ransomware is a form of cybercriminals that encrypt data in an organization and demand payment in order to unlock it. This has highlighted how hackers gangs can disrupt the economy and put people's lives at risk.
Ransomware attacks on the company which owns the country's largest fuel pipe resulted in severe gas shortages on the East Coast. This was one of the most serious cyber incidents this year. A ransomware attack on the largest meat processing company in the world disrupted production worldwide a few weeks later.