A new survey conducted by network security company StreamShield suggests, they say, that women tend to practice safer surfing than do men, as well as being generally safer and more cautious when it comes to viruses, phishing, and other Internet pitfalls.
However, the numbers, as with all surveys, are open to interpretation. As you probably all know, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. As that irreverent news reporting agency The Register has pointed out, does this survey really say that women get fewer online nasties, or does it really say that they are less likely to recognize them, and that men are less likely to admit that they got duped by the nasties?
Here’s what StreamShield has to say:
LONDON, August 26, 2005 Female PC and internet users are less likely to succumb to threats such as viruses and receive junk in their inboxes than male users thats according to research carried out by MORI on behalf of StreamShield Networks.
In every category surveyed, women experienced fewer difficulties when online. For example, 46 of men reported that their PC had been infected with a virus compared with 38 of women, and 50 of men experienced excessive spam versus 38 of women. Men also experienced more unwanted pop up ads, with 74 reporting this compared with 69 of women.
In addition, whilst 29 of male PC and Internet users reported having received a fraudulent email from a source pretending to be a financial institution asking for their banking details, this was true of only 16 of female users. Similarly, whilst 8 of men had experienced online fraud, only 4 of women had been victims.
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Despite these figures there is some positive news for men as they appear to have better overall awareness of Internet threats. For instance, nearly all (97) male PC and Internet users know what a computer virus is versus 92 of female users. The same is also true of other terms including Spyware (66 of men are aware of the term compared with 47 of women), Adware (51 men, 29 women), Phishing (37 men, 18 women) and Key loggers (27 men, 10 women).
Geoff Bennett, Director of Product Marketing at StreamShield comments: The research findings show there is a clear difference between the male and female experience when online. One possible reason for this is that the two sexes may be using the Internet differently. Either way, men do appear to be more vulnerable than women when online and are laying themselves open to falling victim to fraud scams and other annoyances. Either way, there’s an education job that needs to be done across both genders as awareness of these threats overall is far too low and at the moment this is one battle of the sexes which men are evidently losing.
Bennett concludes: “Most people are familiar with or use the Internet on a daily basis, yet many people still don’t understand basic security issues they are facing. Simple steps such as keeping virus checkers and operating system patches up-to-date, treating emails claiming to come from banks with suspicion and not downloading attachments can prevent some of the more basic attacks. However, in the long term, Internet threats are going to become more and more complex and it is vital that if the public are to be reassured, then Internet service providers need to play their part in blocking and cleaning all Internet traffic, removing any malicious content before it can reach users PCs.
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