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UK workers too busy to worry about viruses

Complacency is a virus's best friend

It's either "not my fault. I'm too busy to worry about it," or "who cares?"

Those are the attitudes of the average British worker when it comes to looking out for viruses, according to research commissioned by Novell into worker attitudes.

They either claim they don't have time to worry about checking each email before they open it, or they don't see any reason to bother.

It's alarming, but not all that surprising. For years, security firms have warned that users sticking passwords on sticky notes by their computers are creating a security hazard. Walk through any office and you'll see that hasn't sunk in, so why should warnings about viruses? It's the same story - "I know, I know ... but who's going to come in here and see my passwords? It won't happen."

People who would always lock their doors at home don't really believe anything bad can happen to their computer's security.

The survey of 1,000 UK workers by Taylor Nelson Sofres found that two-thirds of respondents aren't aware of the most basic virus protection techniques, and wouldn't know how to spot an infected email if it appeared.

One-third say they're too busy to check through emails before opening them, anyway. Virus protection software will protect them, they believe, and even if a virus does get through, 95 percent say they're not going too feel too bad about it even if it's their fault. The responsibility lies with the IT department, or maybe Microsoft, or even the government. Anywhere but at their desktop.

"There really are two types of people (causing problems) here," said Ben Bulpett, enterprise sales director for Novell. "There are those who are really busy, and who just don't think it's their issue, and then those who have had little training and education. Between them they're set to create massive loopholes for a company's security to be breached," he said.

Other frightening figures include the fact that one-fifth of workers say they're too busy to update anti-virus software, over one-third have validated their company addresses by replying to spam, and over 55 percent of passwords are still based on family and friend's names.

As for phishing, the practice of creating false web sites to gain information fraudulently, the vast majority of respondents had never heard of it.

The perception of danger varies across the UK. The Scots are most likely to be angered by a virus attack, but the least aware of how to prevent them. Those in Wales are the least likely to download anti-virus software, but luckily are the most suspicious about unknown email, with over half scrutinising attachments before opening them.

In London, workers feel overwhelmed with the amount of email they receive, and are the most likely to have multiple passwords to remember. They do, however, insist that they remember them without writing them down, and Londoners are the most likely group in the country to spot a virus.

And Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, had better watch his step if he ever goes to South or East Anglia for a visit. Workers there are very conscientious, with 70 percent scrutinising all email before opening attachments - but they are the most likely to blame it all on Bill.

Gates, they say, should be personally responsible for stamping out virus attacks. Perhaps they expect him to come and help their IT team clear up the mess once they let a virus loose.

And would people take the same risks on their home PCs? "Ah. Now that's a very interesting question," Bulpett said. People get a more restricted range of email on their personal addresses, so it's probably not the same problem. "Your business email is on your business card, maybe on your website, and so you get a lot more spam there," he said.

And, if you're reading this from another country and feeling smug, don't be too sure. "I think most developed, computer-using countries have the same problems, and face similar challenges," Bulpett said.


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