Panda Security’s new survey reveals how Europeans perceive cybersecurity issues. We tell you about it in a series of 5 posts!

With this article we inaugurate a series of 5 posts on the cybersecurity survey we commissioned from the IO Investigación based in Madrid, with the aim of understanding how Italians, Spaniards, French and Germans perceive cybersecurity. 4041 people aged between 18 and 65 participated in the survey, with a balanced representation of age groups, gender and region of origin.

The survey comprises 27 multiple-choice questions on five main topics:

  1. Social networks and online influence
  2. Domotics and artificial intelligence
  3. Child safety
  4. Online harassment and gender-based violence
  5. Data privacy

In the coming months we will publish posts on the results of these 5 categories, comparing Europeans’ perception with the real situation and concluding with some specific safety tips. In this post we discuss what European think about social networks and online persuasion. Read on!

What we found out


1 in 3 Europeans (32.391%) say they are not aware of the types of data and the amount of personal information they share on the internet and social networks and the risks associated with it.

The most aware European citizens in this respect are: 

Germany (76.96%), 
France (72.32%)
Italy (62.52%) 
Spain (58.67%).

64% of Europeans surveyed say they are concerned about the amount of personal information they share online and on social media. 

To summarise a lot, we can say that Europeans are concerned about the way their personal data is used online, especially by social networks, and many do not know exactly what sites say about it.

This lack of information and concern results in an increased distrust of large platforms, which is coupled with fear of cyber attacks, data breaches and, last but not least, exposure to fake news and fake profiles.

1 in 5 European citizens surveyed believe news received via WhatsApp chains (20.09%) to be credible.

France is the country that gives the most credibility to WhatsApp messages (28.47%), followed by Germany (25.82%). Italy (55.19%) and Spain (51.89%) are the most skeptical countries, giving little credibility to this type of news.

3 out of 4 Europeans believe that fake profiles that try to influence society are extremely prevalent on social networks (75.08%). 

This is followed to a lesser extent by half of Europeans who admit that they sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between real and fake news (50.63%).

Many respondents admitted to having believed and then shared a piece of news that later turned out to be fake, via a social network or a chat like WhatsApp. A small percentage of people give a lot of credibility to their contacts and sources from social media, but most show a healthy distrust, lacking awareness of the persuasive power of online communication.

READ ALSO: How much do social networks know about you?

What we can do better

Let us preface this by saying that Europeans (especially in the older age groups) know that sharing data and using social networks can have negative consequences. Rather, the problem is that they do not know what the concrete risks may be.

With question 25 of the survey, we showed participants what these dangers are and asked them to what extent they thought any of those things could happen to them or had already happened.

The 3 risks perceived as most likely to happen to them or have already happened are: 

  1. incorporation into marketing databases
  2. sharing of personal data with third parties and strangers
  3. profile violation

This is where there is room for improvement: still many people believe that cyber security problems, especially those related to social networks, affect other people or large companies, but that it is unlikely to happen to them to suffer online blackmail, revenge porn or identity theft.

However, the most striking fact in this section of the survey is people’s relationship with fake news and profiles: most people perceive the problem, admit to having fallen for it at least once, but think that misinformation is not able to persuade people and influence social processes such as political elections or the formation of public opinion on important issues.

Safety tips for social networks and against disinformation

To conclude, we share some practical tips on how to safely use social networks and how to deal with online information:

– Read the privacy policy of the social networks you use and adjust the privacy settings and permissions you grant accordingly.

Make your profiles private and ensure that only your contacts can see information and content about you.

– Protect your accounts with 2-factor authentication and complex, never-repeated passwords.

– Watch out for messages and contact requests you receive, some of which may be attempts at fraud (phishing) or the start of a cyber attack.

– Report harassment, abuse and other illegal behaviour against you to the platform and authorities.

– Learn to recognise fake profiles and fake news.

– Do not underestimate the persuasive power of disinformation.

– If a piece of news leaves you in doubt, do some online research to confirm it.

– Check the reliability of sources.

– Check the authenticity of news before sharing it.

We started this series of five posts on our cybersecurity survey by talking about social networks, disinformation and how Eurpean relate to these two big topics. 

We saw that many people are still afraid that their data will be used unethically by social networks, but they underestimate the possibility that the security risks linked to social networks may affect them personally.

Finally, more and more people are aware of the problem of online disinformation but, again, underestimate the scope and impact of fake news. As cybersecurity specialists, we invite you to follow our blog to regularly inform yourself about security issues related to social networks and online influence. A well-informed person is a much harder target for fraudsters and propagandists!

I Observatorio ciberseguridad en Internet - Panda Security

Happy surfing and good informed use of social networks!