Email Users Take Great Risks with Spam despite Awareness of How Bots and Viruses Spread

Only One Third across North America and Western Europe Think Their Computer Is Likely to Be Infected by a Bot

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New York, NY – Although most email users across North America and Western Europe are aware of how bots and viruses spread through risky email behavior, many respond to spam in ways that could leave them vulnerable to a malware infection, according to the 2010 MAAWG Email Security Awareness and Usage Survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.

Half of more than 3,700 email users in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom surveyed on behalf of the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) said they had opened or accessed spam. Notable proportions of users- representing tens of millions of consumers – have taken action like clicking on links or opening attachments that could leave their computer susceptible to being infected. Furthermore, nearly half of those who have accessed spam (46%) have done so intentionally – to unsubscribe, out of curiosity, or out of interest in the products or services being offered.

In addition, many users do not typically flag or report spam or fraudulent email. Younger users both generally consider themselves more experienced in terms of email security but also are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as opening or clicking on spam.

Across the six countries surveyed, 84% were aware of the concept of bots. Yet, most think that they are immune from these viruses, with only a third (36%) saying they consider it likely that they are likely to get a bot on their computer. While most would rely on their anti-virus software to alert them, one in five are unsure as to how they would recognize a bot infection on their computer.

Among various types of organizations, Internet/email service providers and anti-virus software companies are those most widely perceived as responsible for stopping the spread of viruses, fraudulent email and spam. Less than half of users think that stopping the spread of viruses and spam is their own responsibility, but they tend to rate themselves better at doing it than all organizations, except for anti-virus software companies which get the highest marks.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos survey conducted online, January 8-21, 2010, among a total of 3,716 email users in the U.S. (1,082), Canada (548), France (512), Germany (522), Spain (527) and the U.K. (525). In all six countries, the survey was conducted online among Ipsos panel members aged 18 and older who reported having at least one email address for which they manage the security and do not rely on an IT person or service.

Target quotas and sample balancing weights were employed to ensure that the achieved samples are representative of the online population of each country in terms of gender, age and education level, based on official statistics from the U.S Census Bureau, Statistics Canada, Eurostat and Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Multi-country data (i.e., results reported as the “total” or “average” of data from multiple countries) were aggregated so that each country is given equal weight, regardless of the achieved sample size in each country.

The estimated margin of error with a 95% level of confidence of a survey with an unweighted probability sample of the same size and a 100% response rate would be of +/-3 percentage points around the U.S. data (N=1,082) and of +/-4 points around the data from each one of the other five countries (N=512-548) of what the results would have been had the entire population of email users in that country been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For complete survey results, including additional data, charts and the questionnaire in multiple languages, please visit

For more information on this news release, please contact:
Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs

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Email Users Take Great Risks with Spam despite Awareness of How Bots and Viruses Spread

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Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President, US
Head of Health Services Research

Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 212 293 6544