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A recent Eurobarometer poll revealed some relatively alarming statistics. First, that around 10% of all European internet users had experienced online fraud and/or identity theft in some form, and that 74% of those quizzed believed cyber-crime to be an ‘increasing risk.’ Secondly, that only just over 50% had some form of anti-virus software installed on their computers, and that 57% would open emails from addresses they did not recognize.

McAfee, in a separate study, has recently published a list of what it considers to be the foremost online threats in the coming year. Among the risks, it mentions employees of companies being targeted as ‘doorways’ past security and more advanced viruses designed to steal banking information. This, coupled with the findings of the Eurobarometer poll, presents a worrying risk to European citizens. If those quizzed were aware of the inherent risks posed by the internet, and yet did not take moves to protect themselves, then there are only a small number of possible reasons why.

First, that they did not feel threatened by cyber-crime. Given the 10% that had been victims of said crimes, it is unlikely that this is a universal principle. The second possibility is that there is a widespread lack of awareness when it comes to protection. The study found that even the most basic of security protocols were being ignored.

So let’s examine some security tips for the beginner:

Antivirus software – While your operating system of choice may have built-in software for dealing with certain threats, without a full, dedicated antivirus program installed, it can be hard to get frequently-updated protection against the ever-changing world of viruses. Many such programs can be bought cheaply, and charge an annual fee, but if you cannot afford them, then there are plenty of reliable providers with a free version of their product. Any protection is better than no protection.

Common sense
– As a general rule-of-thumb, do not open emails that you either were not expecting, or that are from addresses that you do not recognize. Be cautious using email, regardless of source. Some viruses are able to access your friends’ email accounts and use them to forward virus-riddled spam messages to everyone in their address directory. If you receive a message out-of-the-blue from a friend, check that it is a genuine one.

Caution in security – Many websites and online services require users to register an account and provide a password, which is a good thing: they are being protective of your details (and whatever else you keep there). However, be cautious about having one ‘universal’ password. If a hacker gets hold of it, then he would have access to everything, and could even use it to change your details, and lock you out of your accounts. Repairing such damage can be very time-consuming.

Be wary of ‘Cloud Storage’ – Cloud Storage is a form of data-storage conducted solely online. It offers users either free or cheap use of its servers, and many people use it to ‘file’ documents and the like. It is an innovative and useful service. However, be wary of storing anything containing personal or confidential information in ‘The Cloud’, because it has acquired a reputation for not being totally secure.

Article by Martin Goodyear. For more online security tips, as well as technology and search engine news, visit Their dedicated team of writers is always updating the site with the latest news and advice.

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