A new report from YouGov, commissioned by the UK mobile operator and ISP, TalkTalk, says that 45 per cent of all British homes with Internet connectivity have suffered "cyber attacks". By the way, and in case you hadn't heard, TalkTalk is keen to publicise and push its suite of 'Homesafe' Internet security products. How's that for a co-incidence?. asks Martyn Warwick.
It's not that the YouGov report isn't rigorous or rides roughshod over tried, tested and trusted research methods, it's more that what it regards as "cyber attacks" are, in many cases, no more than the now all-too-familiar relentless deluge of gratuitous spam and advertising to which we are all subject. To describe them as "cyber attacks" is stretching it and more than gilding the lily.
YouGov contacted and questioned 19,828 UK adults and, by extrapolating their responses concludes that 45 per cent of web-connected homes have been under cyber-attack. And that, of course, means that 55 per cent haven't suffrered anything of the sort.
Some of what the report classifies as cyber attacks are what most people would also regard as serious incidents including, key logging, viruses,Trojans, worms and sophisticated phishing expeditions. But others.
such as 'pop-up' advertising and spam, would not and should not form part of any such list.
Some serious points are made, for example, TalkTalk reckons that close on three-quarters of a million identity thefts were attempted on unsuspecting online users in the first quarter of 2011 alone while 35 per cent of connected homes were subject to attacks via Adware secretly loaded on to home computers to extract personal information for advertising purposes.
Further down TalkTalk's list come Trojans and other spyware (14 per cent), viruses (also at 14 per cent), worms (5 per cent), phishing (4 per cent) and hacking (3 per cent).
The report also shows that Brits are still suffering from a surfeit of spam. An incredible 89 per cent of all emails sent in 2010 were pure, unadulterated spam - and this despite the best efforts of the regulators to control the pernicious stuff.
Elsewhere the research indicates that children often open the gates of the home to virtual thieves. Just over 23 per cent of parents who responded to the YouGov questions said their kids (within the age range of 6 to 17) had unwittingly downloaded viruses and 5 per cent were quickly conned into giving out sensitive private information online.
Even so, most respondents have no proprietary protection and security software installed on their home computers, preferring instead to rely on their "own vigilance" to keep kit uninfected.
And this is where TalkTalk shows its hand, observing that trying to keep a weather eye out for any and all possible forms of cyber attack is a losing game.
TalkTalk's commercial director, Tristia Clarke, says, "We’re committed to protecting each and every household. It would be a shame if fears about security and safety prevented anyone from enjoying all the benefits of the online world. People do have to take individual responsibility for their safety online but we do more than other ISP to help people stay safe."
Well, she would say that, wouldn't she?
Photo by Nancy from Orlando, FL, USA via Wikimedia Commons
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