Some of the fastest-growing countries in the world are also the most anxious about threats to their borders, financial fraud and other security issues, according to the Unisys Security Index released by Unisys.
Brazil, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore topped the list of most concerned countries in the index, which measures consumer perceptions on a wide range of threats. All four are top exporting countries among those surveyed, and each has an economy growing at an annual clip of better than 3% as measured by gross domestic product. But each of the four also has a high rate of concern about bank/credit-card and related financial fraud, presenting challenges to investors from the US and elsewhere looking to do business in those countries.
"A strong, globalised economic base appears not to be a guarantee of a sense of security among citizens," notes Tim Kelleher, vice president of enterprise security at Unisys. "Nor is it a guarantee of smooth sailing for foreign investors."
The Unisys Security Index is an ongoing global measure of consumer opinion on various issues related to national, personal, financial and Internet security. Published three times a year, the Security Index surveys more than 13 000 people in 14 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. The study measures consumer perceptions on a scale of zero to 300, with 300 representing the highest level of perceived anxiety. Key findings of this edition of the index include:
* Brazilians have the most fears across the four areas of security (national, personal, financial, Internet), with an index ranking of 188. Airport safety and robbery/banditry in urban areas top the list of specific fears in Latin America's largest country.
* Hong Kong (179), Malaysia (174) and Singapore (172) follow Brazil in terms of overall concern.
* People everywhere are worried about financial security or challenges in paying bills or threats from misuse of credit/bankcards or personal financial data. This concern ranked from moderate to extreme in all 14 countries.
* The British have fairly serious fears of bankcard fraud (184) but feel mostly secure about their ability to pay bills on time (98).
* Australia and the US are more anxious about threat to national security than the possibility of epidemics.
* Germans are worried about Internet security (155), and the Italians are not (64).
* The French are not worried: the overall index reading for France is 83.
* As a group, the 14 countries are not particularly over concerned, as evidenced by an overall Security Index reading of 137.
The overall Unisys Security Index scores by country are as follows: Brazil (188), Hong Kong (179), Malaysia (174), Singapore (172), Germany (160), US (151), Australia (144), UK (138), Belgium (131), Spain (115), New Zealand (108), Netherlands (98), Italy (90) and France (83).
Put it on the card?
Individuals, governments and global businesses all face challenges investing and conducting business in nations with higher levels of concern about bankcard fraud. Financial security is a universal fear across all 14 countries surveyed regardless of income levels with the highest in Hong Kong (235) followed by Brazil (221), Singapore (211), Malaysia (204), Germany (202) and the US (185). The nations with the lowest levels of bankcard fraud, but still categorised at moderately concerned, include Italy (114), France (159) and the Netherlands (156).
European citizens, perhaps buoyed by robust economies, strong single currency performance and established government safeguards have little fear of not being able to pay their bills on time: Financial obligation fears in Italy (90), the Netherlands (69) and France (47) were lowest among the 14 countries. Hong Kong scored the highest in this category at 176. Germany posted a 202 index number for bankcard fraud but only 112 for meeting financial obligations.
Almost every country surveyed exhibited at least a moderate level of concern about national security threats and the potential risk of an epidemic. Almost half had serious concerns about national security, led by Brazil (204), Malaysia (190), Singapore (187), Hong Kong (178) and the US (167).
The countries that have experienced bouts of Avian flu, SARS and related scares remain extremely worried about pandemics, led by Hong Kong (215), Brazil (194), Malaysia (181) and Singapore (176). European nations like Belgium (109), Spain (108), Italy (108), the Netherlands (74) and France (75) all have extremely low index numbers for pandemics but higher concerns for national security.
"Most European countries had low levels of concern about pandemics and given the history of attention toward disease outbreaks to date, this is understandable," Kelleher says. "However, as a geographically contiguous region, Europe is perhaps just as susceptible to disease outbreaks as other regions and in fact has had recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and mad-cow disease."
Around the world people are more concerned about a virus inflicting damage to their computers or networks than personal information being stolen during an online banking or shopping transaction. Germany (172) and Brazil (156) show serious levels of concern about viruses and spam threats, with New Zealand (101), Spain (97), France (83) and Italy (65) coming in much lower on the measure of concern about this threat.
Personal security parallels
The nations with the most serious fears about personal security - which includes personal safety and misuse of personal information - are Hong Kong (202), Brazil (198) and Malaysia (188) followed by Germany (186) and the US (160). While American cities might have dangerous reputations, the city/states of Singapore (167) and Hong Kong (169) both scored higher than the US (110) on personal safety questions. The Netherlands (35) and France (34) were bottom of the list on personal-safety concerns.