Survey: Users are still clueless about Internet security

By on June 27, 2011, 3:58 PM

According to a study conducted by G Data Software, many computer users are still relatively uninformed about Internet security. After surveying some 15,559 Internet users in 11 countries aged between 18 and 65 (including 5,500 respondents in the US), the company concluded that users are inundated with ill-conceived notions about cyber security, leaving them exposed to various online threats.

The research discovered that 89% of participants have security software installed on their system (47.9% free and 41.1% paid), while approximately 9% either run protection-free or are unaware if their system is protected. The remaining sliver admitted to using a pirated version of paid software. Although this data isn't alarming on the surface, G Data said most users have misconceptions about their protection.

For starters, 82% of Americans believe their free antivirus program provides as much protection as their paid counterparts. This isn't comparing the adequacy of free versus paid antivirus scanners in themselves, but it's underscoring that paid suites typically have a broader spectrum of coverage because they're bundled with firewalls and other protection schemes -- features many users are unaware of.

Although only 46% of Americans use paid suites (5% higher than the global average), 60% of US respondents believe they are protected by a full security suite. Nonetheless, that isn't particularly startling either. It is, however, a bit disconcerting that 93% of participants think malware has an identifiable effect on PC performance, while over 45% say a computer will immediately crash if infected.

Users are also confused about where they are most likely to encounter malware. About half of the respondents are convinced that most malware is spread through email attachments or peer-to-peer filesharing services. According to G Data, most infections actually occur by visiting a site with exploitive code. In that same vein, 48% think their system can't be infiltrated simply by loading a nefarious website.

The survey also attempted to determine what age group is best informed by comparing the answers of young and elder adults. Although folks in the 18-24 age bracket have more experience online, that familiarity is actually counterproductive to Internet safety as it encourages a false sense of security. Conversely, the inexperienced nature of those aged 55-64 tends to foster a greater sense of caution.

The older group scored better on seven out of eleven questions. G Data also compared the overall results of men and women -- the latter of which scored better on eight out of eleven questions. However, G Data noted that it is unwilling to proclaim either sex the "winner" because the results between males and females typically varied by less than 2%. You can read the full 29-page report here (PDF).




User Comments: 17

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princeton princeton said:

45% say a computer will immediately crash if infected.

Hahaha. Oh wow.

treetops treetops said:

"For starters, 82% of Americans believe their free antivirus program provides as much protection as their paid counterparts. This isn't comparing the adequacy of free versus paid antivirus scanners in themselves, but it's underscoring that paid suites typically have a broader spectrum of coverage because they're bundled with firewalls and other protection schemes -- features many users are unaware of."

Or users are aware of the other features and simply download 5 free programs instead of one paid for program.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Reading this, it's obvious to me that all the anti-piracy advertising is the cause of people's misconceptions about security. Microsoft's argument against piracy is that it's not as safe and leads to a degraded experience. A common argument against file sharing is that you get malware that way. This message is apparently reaching people, making them believe that malware gets to them by file sharing and will make their PC crash.

As for paid vs. free, there are paid antivirus programs with worse protection than free ones. Paying isn't a guarantee of safety.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Sounds like a vertical market. I'll be advertising "Internet Security" classes in my area soon.

paynetrain007 said:

This article is obviously biased towards purchasable Anti-Virus programs. Many free versions including MSE and AVG free are the best you can get out there and Windows Firewall alongside the firewall included in your router are the best you can get out there. There are no paid for AV suites that give you really anymore protection then that and most paid for programs usually bog down your computer. AV programs really aren't preventative save spybot S&D's immunization database (also free) it is just how quick they can pick up a virus when you get it. I work at a school in IT and we get many of the students computers with viruses on them. Most people who have viruses are those who have the paid for version of a virus program that came on there computer or there parents bought for them. To be completely you safe you just have to practice safe browsing, add a filtering program like K9 in the mix to filter out known malware sites, and if you have the knowledge to work it a program like no script or notscript in chrome you can run a virtually virus free lifestyle.

Guest said:

Agreed completely.

The paid solutions become "pay me more" annoyances very quickly. The free solutions are usually lighter on the memory requirements and do just as good a job as the paid variants.

Paid Antivirus software is done. Bury it.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The whole "if I get a virus my computer will crash right away" thing doesn't really surprise me. I have come across that a lot. Other thing I come across a lot is if the computer crashes or acts odd for any reason a lot of people jump straight to "Oh crap I have a really bad virus", when there hdd just isn't working right or something. Also a lot of people think software issue or virus = computer toast need new computer.

And as paynetrain said, most of the computers I end up working on have paid AV software (I see a lot of McAfee) that didn't do crap to stop the virus.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

The biggest standout to me is "48% think their system can't be infiltrated simply by loading a nefarious website", which definitely needs to change.

RzmmDX said:

I am reminded everyday how vulnerable IE8 with no addons were. Even sitting behind avg free and komodo firewall, I got a rootkit in 4 days.

Lesson learned. Always use noscript and lol block everything.

ElShotte ElShotte said:

What about Microsoft Security Essentials? Not only is it free, it is just as good if not better than commercial suites. Pair that with the Windows 7 Advanced Firewall control, and you've got a pretty darn secure system.

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

People are dumb...so what else is new?

Guest said:

Overall, what a horrible survey... I agree with most everything previous posters have said, This is clearly a scare tactic to push users towards paid AV suite solutions. It might work if the report itself had not been written so badly.

Guest said:

As mentioned above there are a lot of paid anti-virus products that perform horribly, and there are some free ones (notably MS Security Essentials and Avast!) the get by ok, so its not just a cut and dried choice here. FYI, some interesting results here in this post...

http://www.internetsecuritydb.com/p/anti-virus-comparison.ht
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Avast! free edition ended up being ranked 9th, ahead of full price offerings from McAfee, Sophos and AVG.

Guest said:

There's one big problem here : users should not be asked to install additionnal software to get a safe system ; the operating system should be safe, and faults should be fixed with system updates. Why don't you just take a look at GNU / Linux and BSD ? I've never had a security problem using them. But of course no one talks about them, because such solutions don't "make money" you know.

Guest said:

how about dont use Internet explorer at all...

Guest said:

don't for 1 second believe what that survey says it's just a scare tactic to get you to buy anti virus and such. when all you have to do is download ubuntu linux and you secure from 99 percent if the bad stuff written for windows and mac.

Guest said:

Missing words! "Microsoft Operating System" has the 50 MILLION Microsoft Virus!

Linux has ZERO vulnerability, and there are NO Linux Virus! NEVER have been, NEVER will be!

Get YOURS, run it LIVE on the CD/DVD, or, as the second OS, or, single OS on your system!

http://www.linuxmint.com

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