Security experts are concerned that most of the UK public are ignorant about Internet security.

The results of a MORI poll, sponsored by security company StreamShield, shows the depth of public ignorance of online threats.

The research revealed that just 16 per cent of the public had heard of the term 'key loggers' – malicious programs that infect PCs and record confidential password details.

Ignorance may not mean bliss

The problem grows more alarming: just 24 per cent had heard of the term 'phishing' – bogus emails that pretend to be from a user's bank that demand account information - with the aim of stealing money from an unwary user's bank account.

The depth of ignorance is underlined by the number of people who have already been affected by the problem. A third (34 per cent) of the public have already been a victim of a computer virus; while 36 per cent get "excessive spam" and 21 per cent have come across offensive images.

Internet site visit-recording spyware and adware (which make 'pop up' adverts appear) already affect 16 per cent and 11 per cent of UK citizens, the research reveals.

Get informed

StreamShield CEO Simon Gawne warned the public to break its complacency: "There are a variety of sophisticated scams out there and it's easy for users' computers to become infected if they are not kept up-to-date with the latest operating system patches and virus definition updates. Education is the key. Computers can be bewildering and at the moment it seems as if every user, whether they be at home or at work are expected to be experts on the latest threats – which they can't be."

The research also asked respondents to apportion responsibility for today's online dangers faced. Many (59 per cent) said Internet service providers (ISPs) should take responsibility. And 40 per cent each recommended parents and "the government" should act, while 39 per cent demand action from the school system.

Under half the respondents (40 per cent) said it was up to the individual end users to get informed and act to protect themselves.

MORI interviewed a sample of 1,005 adults across Britain, aged 16-plus between August 5–7, 2005 to achieve the results.