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Cyberattacks During Election Made 40 Percent of Americans More Cautious About Email

WASHINGTON — Forty percent of Americans say they are more cautious about what they write in emails since last year's cyber attacks against the Democratic Party, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The March 11-20 opinion survey showed that a sizable minority of Americans made personal changes to how they interact online following the hacking of emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, which were later published by WikiLeaks and other entities.

Among respondents, 45 percent said they had changed their online passwords since the hacks.

Silhouette of male hand typing on laptop keyboard at night
Computer keyboard Andrew Brookes / Getty Images

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia orchestrated the disclosure of the emails to embarrass the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Republican Donald Trump win. The emails also led to the ouster of Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Moscow denies the allegations.

Concerns about online security crossed party lines, with 43 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans saying they had been more cautious about personal email since the election hacking.

"It makes you start to wonder how secure anything is as far as your own privacy," said Delene Rutledge, 67, a retired teacher in Indiana who participated in the poll. "And yet I'm not the greatest at coming up with great passwords — I'm not sure it would make any difference."

Despite concerns about digital privacy, only a small percentage of Americans said they had started protecting themselves online in other ways within the past month.

Five percent of adults said they had begun using secure messaging services like Signal, WhatsApp or Wickr.

Some 16 percent said they had placed tape over the camera in their computers to block any unwanted spying, a tactic advocated by Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and FBI Director James Comey.

Twenty-one percent said they had switched off the tracking capabilities of their internet browsers, while 17 percent changed their user ID on social media networks like Facebook or Twitter and 10 percent unplugged smart TVs or other internet-connected devices when not using them.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English in all 50 states. It included 3,307 American adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points.