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Spyware is rife and virus infection commonplace yet many home users reckon they are safe from online threats.

An AOL/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Online Safety Study - conducted by technical experts in the homes of 329 typical dial-up and broadband computer users across the US - found that most computer users think they are safe but lack basic defences against viruses, spyware, hackers, and other online threats. Only half of broadband consumers used a firewall.

Worse still four in five of home PCs inspected were infected with spyware. The average infected user has 93 spyware/adware components on their computer. Two thirds lacked up to date anti-virus software. One in seven users (15 per cent) had no AV software at all - so it comes as no particular surprise that one in five of the surveyed PCs were infected by a virus.

Despite this legion of problems 77 per cent of those polled reckon they are safe from online threats. The NCSA wants to shake this complacency and encourage more people to guard the sensitive personal and financial information many keep on home PCs from attack.

"The results validate our purpose - to raise awareness and change behaviour," said Ken Watson, chairman of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "Extrapolating the percentages in our survey, this indicates that millions of Americans are at risk - and are already infected - by viruses, spyware, and adware. With October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, now is the perfect time for every American to review the protections they have and make sure those protections are up-to-date and complete." ®

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