UK users ignoring security issues

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jun 21, 2007

Surveys find public in the dark and careless about sensitive data.

Several surveys out this week have shown the UK public is failing to take basic security precautions to protect themselves online. A study by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has shown a sloppy attitude to password use, while another poll commissioned by Symantec has revealed widespread carelessness about revealing personal details, and a study by online payment provider PayPal has shown a lack of awareness of the phishing problem.

The DTI survey was carried out as part of an ongoing project to reduce the impact of human error and carelessness on computer security, and analysed the behaviour of over 1,800 adults when creating and using passwords. Over a third kept their passwords written down or saved on their computers, two thirds never changed passwords, and 20% used the same passwords for online banking as they did for less secure sites. A summary of the survey results can be found at the UK's Government News Network website, here.

The Symantec survey, carried out by UK poll firm YouGov, found over 40% of the 2,200+ people questioned entered sensitive information such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account or credit card numbers on websites without regard for the security of the site. 17% of men and 13% of women would hand over personal details to strangers on dating sites, while 15% of men and 12% of women would happily click on links in unsolicited emails or IMs without regard for the safety of their computer or data. Analysis of the survey can be found at ComputerActive, here.

The PayPal study focused on phishing awareness, and found that while men were more likely than women to claim understanding of the term 'phishing' (74% compared to 54%), only 42% of people questioned felt confident that they could explain the concept to someone else. Nevertheless, 60% of respondents thought they had received phishing emails in the past, and two-thirds of these had had fake messages from their banks requesting account information. Only 2% admitted having been taken in by phishing scams. Full details of the survey, also carried out by YouGov, are here.

The threat to UK users is particularly high thanks to rapid uptake of online-shopping, according to an expert from RSA interviewed here. Many involved with the studies have emphasised the importance of improved user education to reduce the risks of identity theft and online fraud. Several papers on user education will feature at the Virus Bulletin conference, being held in Vienna from 19-21 September. Andrew Lee of ESET and researcher David Harley will present Phish phodder: is user education helping or hindering?, while Jeannette Jarvis of Microsoft will discuss Transforming victims into cyber-border guards: education as a defence strategy. Details of how to register for the conference are here. A discount rate is available for subscribers to VB, who also have access to the full content of the site - subscription information is here.

Posted on 21 June 2007 by Virus Bulletin



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