Many worry more about computer viruses than human ones

by Larry Magid
I’m as concerned as anyone about PC security and I do run anti-malware software. But I’m astonished by the results of a survey conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by BitDefender that shows that “close to half (49 percent) of Americans with a personal computer would be more likely to safeguard themselves from a potential virus on their PC than a human virus, such as the H1N1 flu.”
The survey further found that “only 36 percent are confident they would know the correct course of action if their computer was infected by a virus.”
The survey, according to BitDefender, confirmed that people tend to be cautious after they hear about a malware attack.
74 percent of Americans run a virus scan when they hear about a computer virus spreading.
66 percent check to see if their antivirus software is up to date.
65 percent of Americans are more cautious about the links and files they open after hearing about a new computer virus.
It also found that “26 percent of Americans ‘admit’ to having clicked on a shortened link (such as from the service Bitly) on the Web from someone they don’t know.” I have to confess that I’m one of those people. If I couldn’t click on short links in Twitter, I would never be able to follow interesting links that people (including some I don’t know) post.
Mothers more worried about online safety than drunk driving
This survey reminds me of the results of a 2008 survey from another PC security company when a McAfee-commissioned Harris Interactive poll found that “about two-thirds of mothers of teens in the United States are just as–or more–concerned about their teenagers’ online safety, such as from threatening e-mails or solicitation by online sexual predators, as they are about drunk driving (62 percent) and experimenting with drugs (65 percent).”
I’m not suggesting that either of these studies was skewed. I’m sure the data does reflect the opinions of the people being surveyed. But I find it odd that people are more concerned about technology issues than potentially serious illnesses or extremely dangerous practices like drunk driving.
I’m all for using good security software and I certainly support efforts to keep kids safe online, but the reality is that kids being harmed by predators–however scary–is extremely rare compared to the thousands who die each year in alcohol-related accidents. And computer viruses, while a major concern, are not nearly as important as our personal health.

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