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Are women safer surfers than men?

Or are online polls all meaningless?

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Today we bring you another daft, self-serving survey of Internet users that marketing types have used to generate some headline grabbing statistics. In this case, the shocking news that men are more likely to be victims of online scams and viruses than are women.

This conclusion, arrived at by promotional bods at StreamShield, comes from a MORI poll of just over 1,000 web surfers.

The poll revealed that women report experience fewer difficulties in their lives online than men do: for instance, 46 per cent of men vs. 38 per cent of women reported being infected with a computer virus, and 50 per cent of men complain of excessive spam, as compared to just 38 per cent of women.

Men, it seems, are also more likely to be targeted in phishing attacks: 29 per cent of male users said they had received a phishing email, compared to just 16 per cent of female websurfers.

But hold on, the poll also found that women are less aware of online threats than men are, with only 18 per cent of women say they know what phishing is, compared to 37 per cent of men.

Similarly, just 10 per cent of women say they know what key-logging is compared to 27 per cent of men, and the figures on adware awareness show a similar gap: 29 per cent of women vs. 51 per cent of men say that they know what these threats are.

So what does this actually tell us: that women who know what phishing is will spot it, but those that don't won't? Or that men are less likely to confess ignorance of something when asked in a phone poll?

Either way, StreamShield's marketing director, Geoff Bennett, reckons both sexes could do better. "There's an education job that needs to be done across both genders as awareness of these threats overall is far too low," he said.

He argues that for now, simple steps like keeping virus checkers and patches up to date and treating emails purporting to be from banks with suspicion, will be enough to protect most users.

However, he warns, this won't be the case for long: "In the long term, Internet threats are going to become more and more complex and it is vital that if the public are to be reassured, then Internet service providers need to play their part in blocking and cleaning all Internet traffic, removing any malicious content before it can reach users PCs."

Know anyone who can do that sort of thing? Of course you do...®

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