More than half of Americans (53%) don’t know that their data and personal information is not protected even if they enable privacy settings on social media apps or websites, according to a survey commissioned by Symantec brand Norton LifeLock.

In fact, once information is shared online, it’s no longer private – and, it can fall into the wrong hands whether it’s compromised through a data breach, email scam or even someone familiar.

This is just one of several cyber myths Norton LifeLock identified in their recent online survey, conducted by The Harris Poll among more than 2 000 American adults. Regardless of age or gender, cyber myths coupled with poor cyber safety habits are likely hindering people’s ability to protect themselves from cyber crime.

Even Millennials and Gen-Z age groups, who are often seen as the most tech savvy generations, are less likely to know how to protect their digital and financial lives compared to older adults. More than one in four 18-to-34-year-olds (27%) believe it’s safe to send personal information through email if they have a strong password, compared to only 6% of seniors (65+) and 11% of 54-to-64-year-olds.

Similarly, more than four in 10 of 18-34-year-olds (44%) believe or are unsure if it’s usually okay to ignore browsers and security warnings about questionable websites and proceed to the site, compared to only 17% of seniors.

“We find people have many misconceptions and unfounded beliefs about the safety of their data online,” says Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at Symantec. “Cyber criminals are ruthless and determined to take advantage of consumers’ digital and financial well-being, so we hope to educate and help consumers protect themselves by sharing common myths and clarifying the facts about real online dangers.”

To help educate consumers and bring the story to life, Norton LifeLock enlisted myth busting expert, author and producer Kari Byron to take part in a five-part educational video series, helping close the cyber literacy gap and foster cyber safe behaviour.

“I’m deeply passionate about digging into closely held beliefs and uncovering truths, which is why I’m excited to help Norton LifeLock with this fun, easy to understand video series,” says Byron. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – and that includes your data, your privacy, or even your identity.”

Some of the cyber security myths dispelled by Norton LifeLock include:

Smart Phone Hygiene

Cyber Myth: One in eight Americans (13%) believe hackers cannot gain access to data and personal information on a locked mobile phone.

Cyber Fact: Locking your phone is important, but not enough. Without touching your phone, hackers can gain access to your data and personal information in the cloud where it’s stored. They can also trick you into installing a malicious app that enables them to steal account information and even look at your email and texts. To help keep your phone protected, use a complex password, install security software, only use trusted WiFi, and be careful about who you let use your phone.

Private Browsing

Cyber Myth: About1 in five Americans (19%) believe that turning on private browsing hides their online activity from their internet service provider.

Cyber Fact: Private browsing may only hide certain activities, such as browsing history on the device itself, and it does not conceal online activity from your internet service provider, the websites you visit or your employer. To help hide your online activity, try a virtual private network service (VPN). Using a VPN will encrypt the data you send and receive while using public WiFi so you can pay bills, check email and privately surf the web.

Credit Freezes and Identity Theft

Cyber Myth: More than half of Americans (54%) don’t know that freezing their credit after a data breach doesn’t prevent their identity from being stolen. Additionally, 52% believe or are unsure whether their bank or financial institution will handle all consequences that result from identity theft, including stolen funds reimbursement, credit repair, and reinstating ability to take out loans.

Cyber Fact: Your identity can be stolen even if you freeze your credit. A credit freeze will only prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name where a credit report is required. It doesn’t protect existing financial accounts or prevent them from filing fake tax returns in your name. While a credit freeze is a good idea if your data is breached, identity theft protection services could help you see potential threats that a credit freeze can’t catch.

The Dark Web

Cyber Myth: More than half of Americans (52%) believe it’s impossible or are unsure if they can find out if their personal information is on the dark web.

Cyber Fact: Your personal information can be bought and sold on the dark web – names, Social Security numbers, birthdays – typically for less than $1.50 per record1. An identity theft protection service can patrol the dark web and notify you if it finds your information on the sites it searches.


Cyber Myth: More than one-third of Americans (35%) don’t know that paying off a ransomware attack will not ensure they regain access to their files.

Cyber Fact: If a hacker targets you and you pay the ransom, you may not get your files back, and, if they can make you pay once, you could be targeted again. With the average ransom costing $522, that’s an expensive way to learn the truth. To help protect yourself, back up your data regularly, invest in security software, and keep your software and operating system up to date.