Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Research about spyware offers telling information about the average computers user's relationship with this online threat. Data from the widely reported 2005 National Spyware Study, conducted by the Ponemon Institute, suggest that people may be failing to weigh the dangers of spyware appropriately. This is just additional proof that more education is critical.
It seems that computer users don't even understand what is going on, let alone grasp the full gravity of the risks associated with spyware. The computer, retail, and banking industries must step up their consumer education efforts. Many computer users don't even recognize blatant spyware attacks, but once the damage is done, consumers and everyone else involved lose.
Ponemon's study reveals that the staggering toll spyware has exacted on computer users hasn't necessarily sounded the alarm for consumers. According to the study, 84 percent of respondents had experienced trouble with spyware. Yet most still seemed confused about spyware and indicated that, when given the choice, they would choose more access to free downloads over the development of laws to address the problem of spyware.
If this study is any indication, the current approach to educating everyday computer users about the spyware threat is ineffective. Enjoying all the conveniences of technology, consumers also sacrifice a large degree of security. I don't think they would jeopardize themselves in this way if they truly understood the stakes.
We see television commercials that present serious issues such as spyware and identity theft under the guise of humor, as if online security were a laughing matter. It is not.
While Madison Avenue sure can make some entertaining commercials, the advertising industry clearly hasn't framed the problems of spyware, identity theft, and related issues effectively. Otherwise, I doubt we'd be seeing results like those from Ponemon's study.
Most respondents to the study were unfamiliar with the lexicon of online threats. For instance, many could not differentiate between spyware and adware.
The industry must begin to look at spyware and related threats as more than mere opportunities to increase revenue. Advertising is for making money, but industry first needs to spend money on its existing customers' online security education.