Irish research uncovers low net security awareness


18 Nov 2004

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Although internet security terms such as antivirus, firewalls and worms are understood by many Irish internet users, there is a much lower awareness of newer threats such as modem hijacking, phishing or Trojan horses, new research has revealed.

In addition, more than four in 10 home and work PC’s have been affected by viruses in the past (home 43pc, work 46pc). Just over 50pc of home users have not updated their antivirus in the last three months or cannot even remember when they last did so, although quite a high number have such programs installed (home 77pc, work 85pc).

The findings come from new research carried out by Amarach on behalf of the consortium which organised yesterday’s Make IT Secure day – the culmination of a – 400,000 campaign to raise awareness of internet security among Irish computer users. The group of public and private organisations comprises the Department of Communciations, Marine and Natural Resources, the Information Society Commission and technology providers such as Dell, Eircom, Esat BT, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Symantec and Ward Solutions.

As well as issuing the research the campaign also included activities such as the printing and distribution of 800,000 campaign leaflets that were handed out in towns all over Ireland. More than one million emails containing the campaign information were sent and the scheme received extensive coverage on regional and national radio. A dedicated website for general information on computer security was also created, at www.makeitsecure.ie.

Despite recent phishing scams – and efforts by banks to upgrade their own security – 35pc of home users who used online banking services said they were not very concerned at whether their personal details were secure when online; a further 22pc said they were “not at all concerned”, the survey found. Three out of five work internet users said they did not understand what phishing was, compared with 15pc who did.

More than 75pc of home and work internet users surveyed said they were interested in learning more about PC and internet security. The survey polled a representative sample of 410 internet users, 329 home users and 81 who use the internet at work only. Of the home internet users, 102 also go online when at work.

“These statistics really do highlight the need that there is for this information and education campaign,” said Communications minister Noel Dempsey TD, speaking at the launch. “Computers and the internet are wonderful resources and their potential is limitless but users need to also be aware of the potential dangers that are out there.”

Joe Macri, general manager of Microsoft Ireland, said that the effectiveness of the campaign would be measured in several ways. “The first is that we intend to run this research again. Another is to see what happens when a virus hits. This initiative is running in a number of other countries. In Finland, they ran a campaign after the Blaster worm hit but before the Sasser worm and its impact was much diminished after the campaign.”

Tim McCarthy, country manager for Dell Ireland, said that security was an industry-wide issue, which is why competitors were collaborating on raising awareness of security. “From our point of view, the digital home is now a reality and is very much based around the PC. The security of that device is critical. It’s in the interests of the industry that users get the value out of the PC that they should be getting.”

By Gordon Smith