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Get Safe Online Week starts rolling

Neate – a former police officer – appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday morning to explain the problems of scareware and internet malware.

The focus of this year's GSO Week campaign is most definitely on scareware, as the organisation's research claims that 24% of more than 1500 UK adult internet users have been approached by someone claiming to be from an IT helpdesk offering to check their computers for viruses.

Neate said that internet users should ignore cold calls from companies offering free virus checks, and be very cautious of any on-screen popups.

"Most reputable IT providers do not approach customers in this way without prior notice or a direct request", he explained.

Response to this year's GSO Week campaign has been positive, with VeriSign – now part of Symantec – noting that its latest online fraud barometer showing that 80% of UK consumers claim not to shop from websites that do not display security credentials.

Despite so many consumers being careful online, the IT security vendor says that its research shows that 10% of the UK population has been scammed online over the past year, with 71% of victims claiming to have had money stolen.

"UK consumers are generally diligent when it comes to online shopping, and as a rule know the security signs to look out for", said Matthew Bruun, EMEA Head of Sales with VeriSign's user authentication operation.

Most UK consumers, he added, are aware that if they put their personal details into an insecure website, but even if websites are one hundred per cent secure, if this it not obvious, consumer will go elsewhere.

"This means that companies have to go further than securing their sites. They have to make it clear to their customers that they are doing so", he explained.

Over at GrIDsure, the pictorial authentication specialist, meanwhile, Stephen Howes, the firm's founder and CTO, said that he supports the aims of the campaign wholeheartedly.

This week's campaign, he said, once again highlights the confusing and dangerous world that consumers and businesses face when it comes to online security.

"With the increasing threat from hackers and fraudsters, computer users – whether it's for online banking, social networking or businesses services – are now all expected to be security experts", he said.

"The truth, though, is that most computer users don't know or care what the latest iteration of the ZeuS banking Trojan is, or which anti-virus software offers them the best protection", he added.

As a result, Howes says that, whilst user education of the risks is always important, he believes that the online service providers should put in place systems that are easy to use and secure enough to make it very difficult for a hacker to steal logon details even if they have infected the users' PC.

"These solutions are available today and while being told to change your passwords to a 24 letter cryptogram is all well and good, it's hardly advice that should find its place in today's connected world", he noted.

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