77% of U.S. Residents Concerned About Ransomware, IP Theft and Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

The MITRE-Harris Poll Survey on innovation found U.S. residents are broadly concerned about the nation’s research and development (R&D) and innovation trajectory. It also found widespread concern over the economic and security implications of technology R&D investment and remaining competitive with China in emerging technology.

U.S. residents are overwhelmingly concerned about ransomware attacks (77% very/somewhat concerned) and agree that foreign ransomware and other cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure and manufacturing should be treated as acts of terrorism (86%). Private companies should be prohibited from paying ransoms to hackers (79%), residents said.

“The United States is facing threats to our economic and national security in more domains than ever before. This poll reflects a concern that these challenges are further exacerbated by an erosion of our innovation leadership,” said Charles Clancy, senior vice president, general manager, MITRE Labs, and chief futurist. “The widespread concern and potential impact of cyber attacks, crucial technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence show the urgent need for a cohesive national strategy to foster innovation and growth in these key areas.”

Other key findings show:

  • More than half of U.S. residents (55%) believe the U.S. government should be spending more on technology R&D in order to stay ahead of China. And more U.S. residents (37%) believe we are behind China on technology R&D than ahead (31%).
  • U.S. residents believe the United States has a slight edge on China on the development of 5G and telecommunications technology (33% ahead, 29% behind), but more than half (55%) are either somewhat or very concerned about the United States falling behind other countries.
  • Two-thirds are either somewhat or very concerned about using telecommunications equipment developed in non-democratic countries such as China.
  • More U.S. residents also believe we are behind China (37%) than ahead of China (25 %) on the development of semiconductors.
  • The majority of U.S. residents are very concerned or somewhat concerned about artificial intelligence (AI) being used for malicious intent (75%) and the lack of transparency in AI systems (72%).

“This study provides a clear snapshot of the significant international competitiveness and cybersecurity threats in America,” said Rob Jekielek, managing director, The Harris Poll. “U.S. residents overwhelmingly agree that more needs to be done to address ransomware, international competitiveness and more. This consensus shows the widespread concern among U.S. residents.”

MITRE has been working to actively address these threats to our economic and national security, and has proposed a Horizon Strategy Framework for science and technology innovation. MITRE partners with the government to address ransomware, working on techniques for the prevention, resiliency, and remediation of cyber attacks, and is exploring new public-private partnership models to improve information sharing and timely response.

Through the Cyber Infrastructure Protection Innovation Center, MITRE bridges public and private sectors to protect critical infrastructure with a mission-driven approach that brings a deep understanding of operational technology and adversarial behavior. The center works to protect infrastructure including operational technology, industrial control systems, and cyber-physical systems.


This survey was conducted online within the United States between October 5-7, 2021, among 2,037 adults (aged 18 and over) by The Harris Poll via its Harris On Demand omnibus product on behalf of MITRE.

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