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Get safe online, urges campaign

Over three quarters of people in the UK do not know how to properly protect themselves online, putting themselves at risk of attack from internet criminals, according to the “Get Safe Online” campaign, launched today.27 Oct 2005

An ICM poll of 1,000 internet users, commissioned to support the campaign, reveals that millions of UK internet users do not understand threats to their computer or how to protect against them, while 42% rely solely on friends and family for online safety advice rather than seeking advice from experts.

Seventeen percent of people in the UK think internet crime is of greater concern than physical crimes like car theft and mugging. But despite this, 22% of us still open suspicious files from unknown sources that can unwittingly spread viruses to others.

Furthermore, most of the internet users interviewed did not update their anti-virus software enough – leaving them vulnerable to online attack. Only a third of respondents (32%) updated their anti-virus software at least every three months, says the survey.

Educating users is therefore one of the key goals of the campaign, which hopes to raise awareness of the issues and provide solutions through a one-stop-shop website. Campaign ambassadors will also be touring major UK cities over the next few weeks.

The campaign is a joint initiative between the Government, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and private sector sponsors from the worlds of technology, retail and finance, including BT, Dell, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, and Yell.com.

“Increasingly we are seeing organised criminals turning to the internet as a vehicle for their criminality,” said Sharon Lemon, Head of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. “And as more of us are connecting to the internet to shop, bank and communicate, we need to make sure that we do so as safely as possible. Get Safe Online gives the public the information they need to protect themselves.”

Welcoming the initiative, Tom Newton, product manager for security provider SmoothWall called the campaign a step in the right direction.

“User PCs are frequently compromised as a springboard to attack larger organisations – solving problems at the grass-roots level will help everyone, from home users to multinational business,” he said.