Internet myths putting Americans at risk

Americans’ knowledge of Internet security is scattered with misconceptions and fallacies that expose PC users to a slew of online threats, according to G Data Security.

The report found that Americans are dangerously out-of-touch with the sophistication of today’s threat landscape.

When asked if they are more wary of being exposed to malware on porn sites or horseback riding sites, more than 40% of Americans said porn sites. However, in reality, hobby and amateur sites are far easier to attack than adult sites.

Hobby sites are also much slower in removing malware – and with visitors not being careful on these sites – they pose a greater infection risk than adult sites, where visitors expect danger.

When it comes to how malware impacts computers, consumer expectations overwhelmingly haven’t kept pace with today’s stealthy threats. Nearly all Americans reported that contaminated computers would show signs of infection through slowdowns, crashes, or pop-ups.

Yet, today’s malware is operated by professionals looking to surreptitiously steal sensitive information, without risking detection.

Notable findings, including:

  • 89% of Americans report using security software to protect their PCs, with 46% using paid software and 42.7% relying on free versions. The U.K. had the highest number of users with a security solution installed (94%), while Russia had the lowest (83%).
  • 54% of Americans believe that most malware is spread through email, but in today’s world the biggest threat is from malicious links – spread not only via email, but also instant message, social networks, and other social channels. And yet, more than half of Americans click on links in social networks. Only 49.4% do not click on any links on social networks.
  • No free antivirus product currently offers full-suite protection (including anti-spam, web filters, firewalls, etc), yet 82% of Americans believe that free software is as good as paid antivirus software.
  • Among those Americans who use antivirus software, nearly 60% believe they have a full-suite of protection – however, only 46% use paid software. Because only paid software has full-suite protection, many PC users wrongly believe they are fully-protected. There’s a domino effect at play here, for example, if these users spread links that they believe have been scanned, but their free antivirus solution doesn’t actually have that capability.
  • Nearly 53% of Americans wrongly believe that torrent and peer-to-peer sites are the largest source of malware, when as mentioned, malicious websites reign here.
  • Overall, Americans stack closely to other surveyed nations. Germans were the best informed about the threats lurking online, while Russian respondents believed the most security myths.
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