Internet users often do not recognise a potential threat when they encounter one, according to the latest testing conducted by Kaspersky Lab and involving more than 18 000 people worldwide.

The company says that user safety in the digital environment depends on a number of factors. First of all, it depends on the user’s ability to make the right decisions. Your online habits can help protect your digital identity, money and personal data, or it could make it all easy prey for criminals. Kaspersky Lab wants to draw attention to this problem with a test that helps users evaluate their level of cyber-savviness and understand if their behaviour on the Internet is safe or not.

The test sees respondents confronted with several potentially dangerous situations that occur regularly on the Internet when surfing the Web, downloading files or viewing social networking sites, for example. Each scenario offers a choice of several answers. Depending on the possible negative consequences, each answer is assigned a score – the safer the user’s choice, the higher the score, and vice versa.

Representatives of 16 countries scored an average of 95 points out of a possible 150. This means they only chose the safe options in half of the hypothetical situations; in the remaining situations they exposed themselves to the risk of unpleasant consequences such as a confidential information leak.

During testing, only 24% of respondents were able to identify a genuine Web page without also selecting a phishing (i.e. fake) page. Moreover, 58% of those surveyed selected only phishing sites designed to steal people’s credentials without choosing the genuine page. It was also found that on receiving a suspicious email, every tenth user is ready to open the attached file without checking it – the equivalent of manually launching a malicious programme in many cases. Another 19% would disable a security solution if it suddenly tried to prevent the installation of a programme because it could be dangerous.

“Self-preservation is an integral part of our existence,” says David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “In the real world we know how to reduce the risk of money or property loss: we’ve learnt about it from an early age. When we’re offline we’re always on guard, but when it comes to the Internet the self-preservation instinct often fails us. And, of course, today everything has a digital format: our personal life, intellectual property and money.

“All this requires that we adopt the same kind of responsibility as in real life, and the cost of making a mistake online can be just as high,” Emm says. “That’s why we encourage everyone to evolve with technology and improve their cyber-savviness.”