International variations in online threat perception

How do computer users around the world view online security risks? A survey by F-Secure reveals some interesting international variations in people’s experiences and perceptions of the threats.

Asked how concerned they are about their online privacy and data security, Germans (77%) and Malaysians (73%) express the most concern, while the Swedes (42%) and Finns (36%) appear to be the least concerned – or the most confident about their online life.

An average of 49% of respondents across the seven countries say they have been hit by malware in the past 12 months, but their security software had notified them and prevented infection.

The most malware hits are reported by Poland (70%), Finland (60%) and Malaysia (54%), with Germany (32%) reporting the lowest figure. Poland (14%) and Malaysia (11%) have the most respondents without any anti-virus protection on their computers which have been infected by malware.

Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure, says, “Germany seems to combine a high level of worry with a low level of exposure to the actual threats. Caution is good when surfing the web but being overly concerned may also prevent people from experiencing the full benefits of the Web. There is also a learning curve – as people become exposed to threats, they also learn how to deal with new situations and become more confident and less concerned. ”

The survey results also show that many computer users around the world are still unsure about security issues. For example, many people do not know if their computers have been infected in Sweden (38%), United States (34%), UK (33%), and Germany (32%).

There is also wide variation in how concerned people are about specific types of malware attacks. Germans (65%) and Malaysians (59%) are the most concerned about downloading malware from a website, compared to just 22% of respondents in Finland. The risk of poisoned search results, which criminals use to lead people to malicious websites, is taken most seriously by the Germans (62%) and the British (41%).

According to the survey, credit card crime is the most prevalent in the United States, where 32% of the respondents have personally experienced it or know someone who has been a victim. Malaysia (27%) and UK (27%) also report a relatively high level of credit card crime, while the lowest incidence is in Poland (11%) and Finland (12%).

An average of 7% of respondents in the seven countries do not know what malicious code or malware is, with the highest scores occurring in the UK (12%), United States (12%) and Malaysia (9%). A significant proportion of Americans (29%) and the British (28%) are not aware what poisoned search results are. Rogue ware, such as the bogus security products that take computers hostage and fool people into making payments to remove fictitious malware, is a term only understood in Sweden and Poland.

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