Phishing and viruses feed net paranoia, survey finds

12 Sep 2006

Close to 80pc of Irish internet users have succumbed to email-borne viruses and more than that number believe that there is always a risk in sending personal information by email, a new survey has found.

Research conducted by W5 Marketing Intelligence on behalf of BrandMail Solutions also found that 90pc of Irish internet users want to be able to trust emails from companies they know and 80pc want to feel more secure when dealing with companies through the internet. The survey was conducted online from a sample set of 500 people.

Moreover, people’s sense of security was found to be at its lowest when they are presented with unsolicited emails from companies they do not know.

Noel Ruane, managing director of BrandMail Solutions, said that the experience of Irish internet users mirrors that of internet users in other countries such as the US. “There is a fear factor when it comes to online communications and as a consequence legitimate brands suffer,” he said. “What is striking about these results is that 90pc of respondents said they want to be able to trust emails from companies they know.”

Another finding from the research was that one in six Irish internet users said they had fallen victim to a phishing scam. However, it is unclear whether this means that 16pc of respondents had been defrauded — which seems like a high figure — or whether they simply received a phishing email — which is more likely given the recent spate of fake banking messages circulating on the internet.

Statistics from the Anti-Phishing Working Group bear out the anecdotal evidence, as figures ranging from April 2005 to April 2006 show a massive jump of 258pc in phishing emails. Essentially, this involves banks’ names being hijacked and used to trick consumers into revealing their account information to criminals.

Ruane claimed that some of the responsibility for repairing the damage must lie with ISPs and the brands themselves. “Internet service providers and brand managers must start taking this issue seriously and take responsibility for what is happening before consumers completely lose faith in what is probably the most cost-effective and targeted communications channel at their disposal: email,” he said.

By Gordon Smith