Report reveals 'safe surfing' Britain

8 August 2006

British citizens are fighting back against the threat of viruses and spyware channelled through the internet according to a new survey from the British Computer Society (BCS).

Almost two in three adults now have access to a computer at home and over 90% of home internet users currently take active measures to protect themselves from security threats. Equally, 92% of online shoppers also take active precautions to protect themselves against fraud.

The survey, undertaken to measure the nation's online security practice, also demonstrates growing public confidence in the safety of the internet. Online shoppers now spend an average of £164 per month online, 52% make use of secure payment areas on websites and 51% only shop on well known retailer sites in order to ensure safe transactions.

The number of home internet users in Britain who have purchased online has also increased by over 2 million people in the past year; up from approximately 15.2 to 17.4 million.

BCS chief executive David Clarke attributes the upsurge in public confidence in the internet to a growing recognition of safe surfing and utilizing available tools to protect against threats.

"The fact that the British public are ensuring that their computers are protected from the potential pitfalls of the internet is very encouraging. Installing antivirus software and a firewall is vital; likewise using a dedicated payment service, or secure payment area of a website when purchasing online.

Without taking these precautions, users can run into many problems including losing files or releasing personal banking information with the serious risk of being defrauded or having their ID cloned."

Key findings of the survey include:

  1. 64% of British adults claim to have access to a computer at home and 23% have access at work. 29% cited that they do not have access to a computer.
  2. Only 30% of people aged 65 or over have access to a computer at home, although this has risen from 22% last year.
  3. 63% of British adults claim to have access to the internet.
  4. Among those using a computer at home, the top 4 reasons for using the internet are for "research/fact finding/a learning tool" (65%), "online purchasing" (58%), "read information or news on favourite websites" (46%), and "online banking" (43%).
  5. Opinion was divided about the security of online banking. 34% of home internet users use online banking and are confident in the security of the service; 32% have concerns about security (about half of this group use it and half don't); and 27% don’t use it for reasons unconnected with security.
  6. 8% of home internet users claim to have been a victim of online fraud.
  7. 42% of home internet users have been a victim of computer viruses or spyware. 26% have had their computer infected with spyware and 20% have lost data as a result of a computer virus.
  8. 92% of home internet users take steps to protect their computer against virus threats. The most frequently used measure is anti-virus or firewall software, mentioned by 86%.
  9. 92% of internet shoppers take precautions to ensure their online purchasing is safe. The two most frequently mentioned measures were "look for secure payment areas on websites" (52%) and "only shop on trusted or well known retailer websites" (51%).
  10. Internet shoppers spent an average of £164 each in the past month.
  11. The number of home internet users in Great Britain who have purchased online has increased by over 2 million people in the past year; up from approximately 15.2 to 17.4 million.

BCS has recently launched a new service containing advice for IT professionals, security professionals and the public on current security issues. The BCS security pages of its website also provide comment and analysis of common problems that can arise when security is breached and show what is being done to tackle high-tech crime.

The up to the minute security site can be found at

Editor’s Notes:

The survey was commissioned by BCS and conducted by TNS, one of the world's leading market information companies. A representative sample of 2,133 British adults were interviewed face-to-face during the period 7th - 11th July 2006.

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