Improving consumer education for digital safety: Insights from the CR survey

WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer Reports (CR), Aspen Digital, and the Global Cyber Alliance today released the second annual Consumer Cyber Readiness Report, marking the start of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It reveals continued progress in consumer cybersecurity practices through the adoption of data and privacy practices, awareness of security tools, and improved posture online. However, more consumer education and understanding of best practices is needed to ensure people are taking the proper steps for their digital safety.

The report highlights findings from a nationally representative survey of 2,000 US adults conducted by CR in May 2023. It also provides key leadership perspectives from government, industry, and civil society.

While the public has become more empowered and better equipped to protect themselves and their personal information, more education and training is needed to increase adoption of key security and privacy tools. These include password managers, multifactor authentication apps, and device/file encryption. Yet, consumers should not be expected to shoulder the burden of their cybersecurity alone.

The public, private, and nonprofit sectors must continue working together to create a safer digital ecosystem for consumers. Consumer Cyber Readiness (2023) comments on emerging tools and services, such as passkeys and the Cyber Trust Mark, as ways to shift the responsibility away from consumers and enable them to make more informed decisions when selecting devices or platforms.

Key findings of the survey include: 

  • When asked how consumers in America are protecting their privacy, CR found that:
    • Just 37% use a password manager that automatically creates and stores passwords. 
    • Three-fourths are using multifactor authentication to log into at least one online account.
    • Among those who use multifactor authentication, the most common type of multifactor authentication is SMS or text based (82%), while physical security key (6%) is the least common method.
    • When CR asked about privacy protection tools that people can install on their devices, they found that the most common tool or practice used is implementing software updates as soon as they are available (67%). Only 12% of US Adults use software to encrypt files on their devices. 
  • When asked what actions they take to protect their privacy or personal data online, consumers answered that they avoid clicking links from strangers in texts (92%) and emails (91%). The least common is encrypting their hard drive (22%).

Amira Dhalla, director of impact partnerships and programs at Consumer Reports, noted, “Cybersecurity Awareness Month presents an opportunity to have meaningful engagement with consumers on how they can protect themselves online. We need collective action to better serve people’s needs. This report shows that we have made progress but significant work remains to build trust with consumers and better equip them with the necessary tools and education to protect their digital security and privacy.” 

Katie Brooks, Director of Cyber Partnerships at Aspen Digital, shared, “There are many actions consumers can take to better secure themselves online. However, tool and service providers should also play a significant role in raising the security baseline of their out-of-the-box products.”

“We see two important signals of behavioral change, which at the end of the day is what really matters. One is that people are making better decisions in terms of digital protection and cybersecurity, and the other is that industry and government should keep working together to advocate for security-by-design of products and policies that lead to improved cyber hygiene,” said Komal Bazaz Smith, GCA’s Chief Business Officer. 

About Aspen Digital

Aspen Digital is a nonpartisan technology and information-focused organization that brings together thinkers and doers to uncover new ideas and spark policies, processes, and procedures that empower communities and strengthen democracy. This future-focused Aspen Institute program inspires collaboration among diverse voices from industry, government, and civil society to ensure our interconnected world is accessible, safe, and inclusive – both online and off. Across its initiatives, Aspen Digital develops methods for elevating promising solutions and turning thought into networked impact. To learn more, visit aspendigital.org or email .

About the Global Cyber Alliance

The Global Cyber Alliance is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to making the Internet a safer place by reducing cyber risk. We build programs, tools, and partnerships to sustain a trustworthy Internet to enable social and economic progress for all.


About Consumer Reports

Founded in 1936, CR has a mission to create a fair and just marketplace for all. Widely known for our rigorous research and testing of products and services, we also survey millions of consumers each year, report extensively on marketplace issues, and advocate for consumer rights and protections around safety as well as digital rights, financial fairness, and sustainability. CR is independent and nonprofit.