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Which countries have the highest online literacy?

Despite being aware of online threats and risks, many people have poor security habits and cyber hygiene. New research by NordVPN has revealed that many internet users don’t use adequate tools to protect themselves from the threat of cybercriminals. While the numbers vary from country to country, research suggests that, as a global society, people are still not taking cybersecurity seriously.

Which countries have the highest online literacy?

Europeans care about their privacy the most

NordVPN’s National Privacy Test was conducted in 192 countries with more than 48,000 participants. However, researchers drilled down into the performance of 21 countries where the number of respondents were the highest, giving us a detailed map of the regions with the highest cybersecurity literacy.

People were asked how they manage app permissions, what kind of information they share on social media, which tools they use to enhance their privacy, and how they follow the policies of various services.

9 out of 10 countries with highest digital literacy are in Europe, with Germany leading the list. Germans are the most advanced internet users on all fronts (overall score 71.2 out of 100): online privacy knowledge (78/100), risk management (90.2/100), and healthy online habits (53.2/100). Dutch (69.5/100) and Swiss (68.9/100) internet users were not very far behind.

National Privacy Test

European nations were followed by the US, which finished in 4th place with a score of 68.5/100. While it might seem that more economically and technologically advanced countries got a higher score, research also gave us a few unexpected results.

The mysterious case of Japan

Japan is one of the most technologically developed countries in the world with 91% of the population using the internet. However, when it comes to online risk awareness, the Japanese are far behind many other countries.

Japan scored 44.4 in the National Privacy Test, which is significantly lower than the global average (65.2).

Indian citizens should also reconsider their digital habits. While many global corporations outsource tech-related roles to India, the country’s overall score is 14 points below the average (51.2).

The biggest misconceptions of the online privacy

Almost half of the respondents that performed poorly in the National Privacy Test believe that deleting the browsing history wipes out their digital footprint. Websites, internet service providers, and even governments can monitor your browsing data long after you’ve cleared your history.

38% of respondents couldn’t identify tools to improve their privacy online. Many internet users agree on privacy policies without reading them, overshare on social media, and have a poor understanding of what a criminal could do with their personal information.

With cyberattacks growing every year and bad actors threatening our privacy, these findings suggest that too many people are still easy targets for hackers and data thieves. Luckily, enhancing your security is not rocket science, and anybody can do it.

How to enhance your online privacy

Use a strong password. “Password123” and “123456” are weak passwords. We recommend using numbers and special characters along with upper- and lower-case letters. Never use the same password for all your accounts — every password should be unique.

Enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security, as you have to confirm your identity with a token, SMS, or application. You can also set your devices and accounts up to use biometric authentication, although that isn’t always as secure as it seems.

Check app permissions. Some apps might access more tools on your phone than they really need to do their job. Go through your smartphone’s settings and adjust your app permissions directly. If a calculator or racing game can access your camera, this should raise some suspicions.

Don’t overshare on social media. It’s best to keep your social media accounts private. Wrongdoers can collect information about you from sites like Facebook and Instagram and use it as part of a social engineering attack. Avoid sharing your email address, phone number, or location online.

Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your internet traffic, so nobody can see what you do online and record the websites you visit. The NordVPN app mitigates the risk of hacking and improves your overall digital wellbeing. With one NordVPN account, you can protect up to six devices, including your smartphone, smart TV, and router.

For more data and insights like the ones discussed in this post, check out our Cybersecurity and Privacy Research Lab.

How do you think your country ranks? Check out the full report to see our findings.