Campaign increased security awareness levels


8 Mar 2005

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Levels of awareness and behaviour change resulting from last year’s Make IT Secure campaign compare very well with similar public initiative messages on other issues, a leading market researcher has said.

A survey has shown that many Irish internet users are now implementing extra security measures following the campaign.

According to research conducted by Amarach Consulting, one third of respondents were familiar with the campaign and 75pc of this group said they now take PC security more seriously. Gerard O’Neill, chief executive of Amarach Consulting, called this achievement “remarkable”, given the modest budget allocated to the initiative relative to other consumer campaigns for financial services, food and beverages or branding.

“Given the tight turnaround and focused nature of the campaign, we were amazed at the level of awareness and behavioural change,” he told siliconrepublic.com. He pointed out that the effect was all the more surprising because the campaign took place in November, when “every marketer and advertiser is trying to convince people to spend money in December”.

Make IT Secure was a nationwide information and awareness campaign, which was developed to inform PC users in the home and the workplace about how to be secure and to encourage people to educate themselves about IT security risks. It was organised by a public-private consortium comprising the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Microsoft, Eircom, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Symantec, Esat BT, Ward Solutions and the Information Society Commission.

Amárach Consulting polled 303 internet users after the campaign and found that 33pc were aware of it, with 75pc of these respondents saying that they now take PC security more seriously. Of those who were aware of the initiative, 47pc undertook extra PC security measures as a result.

A comparison of the pre- and post-campaign research showed that security measures taken by internet users increased following the initiative. These included deleting email attachments from unknown sources, using up-to-date antivirus software, backing up files, changing passwords, installing a firewall and updating operating systems.

Internet users also improved their understanding of key security terms such as worms (up 12pc), firewalls (up 8pc), viruses (up 6pc) and antivirus software (up 4pc). The number of people who had installed firewalls on their home systems increased by 11pc and there was a 14pc rise among those who now have internet restrictions on their home PCs. Just under 70pc of respondents expressed an interest in learning more about PC and internet security. Among work internet users surveyed, there was an increase of 15pc amongst those who now had internet restrictions on their PCs and an increase of 7pc who had installed firewalls.

Although no direct research figures were available for comparison, O’Neill said that the Government’s Safe Food consumer awareness initiative has a much larger budget than Make IT Secure but its effect in reaching a large audience and making them change how they behave “has been much slower to come about”.

“Talk to any marketer and he or she say the hardest thing is to change someone’s behaviour,” said O’Neill. “The challenge is, will the legacy of the Make IT Secure campaign last?” Now that the campaign brand has been created, he recommended that it should be continued every year to continue the momentum it had built up.

By Gordon Smith