Spyware scores strongly in IT security campaign

17 Nov 2005

Three out of four Irish internet users don’t know what spyware is and almost nine out of 10 do not understand the term phishing, new research has revealed. The findings emerged from a survey conducted as part of a public awareness campaign on IT security.

The Make IT Secure initiative, now in its second year, is backed by a consortium of public and private organisations. It is run by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources along with Microsoft, Dell, Symantec, Irish Bankers Federation, BT Ireland, Vodafone, Eircom, National Centre for Technology in Education, the Internet Advisory Board, RTÉ and Ward Solutions.

The current campaign had a broader focus than last year, with a particular emphasis on addressing and educating users about four key areas: phishing, spyware, identity theft and child safety online.

Research conducted by Amarach Consulting for the campaign brought to light several issues around these areas; for example, 76pc of parents said they have discussed the potential dangers of internet use with their children. However, 74pc of parents said they did not use any software to control or restrict their children’s internet access.

Home users and workers are more aware of more established security risks such as viruses: 79pc of home users and 75pc of work users use antivirus software.

However, public awareness of some of the newly emerging IT security threats is low, the survey found. Only 13pc of respondents said they had a good understanding of the term phishing, 19pc understand what identity theft is and 24pc know what spyware is.

Illustrating this further, the information website that was set up to support the campaign has been updated for this year’s efforts and, according to Mike Hughes, security and platform strategy manager with Microsoft Ireland, the spyware section on the campaign website was the most accessed page in the build up to Make IT Secure day.

He added that this section on the site has anti-spyware tools that users can download free of charge. “People are starting to realise that spyware is a complete and utter nuisance,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

In addition, separate research presented to the Department of Communications by the security company Espion found that a PC connected to the internet for three hours a day would be infected by at least one spyware program every week.

“These statistics highlight the need for campaigns such as Make IT Secure,” commented Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, who added that further research to be conducted next month would gauge the effectiveness of the campaign’s message and would help to inform the next stage of its development.

By Gordon Smith