The average UK worker is too busy or too complacent to watch out for and cope with viruses, according to research from Novell.

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."

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 per cent say they're not going too feel too bad about it even if it's their fault, they said. 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.

Common sense

Twenty per cent 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 per cent 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 scrutinizing attachments before opening them.

London workers are overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive, and are the most likely to have multiple passwords to remember. However, Londoners are the most likely group in the country to spot a virus.