A new survey (PDF) conducted by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) surveyed some 800 Internet users (400 online and 400 by phone) about how they protect themselves from spam, bots, and malware. Surprisingly, the survey found that some 12 percent of respondents admit to having replied to a spam message or clicked a link in a spam message because they were interested in a product or service the message promoted—a figure that flies in the face of conventional wisdom that the number of people two respond to spam is just a fraction of a percent of all Internet users.
The survey was the first to be conducted by MAAWG, and focused on Internet and email usage, as well as ways consumers try to protect themselves from spam, bots, and malware. Overall, the survey finds that users are generally aware of email threats, but don’t take many steps to protect themselves from spam, email fraud, and other online threats. About two thirds of respondents considered themselves “somewhat” or “very” knowledgeable about Internet security, but also found that 21 percent of respondents take no action to keep abusive messages out of their mail. And in a perhaps troubling note, some 63 percent of respondents indicated they would be willing to have their network operator or anti-virus vendor remotely access their computer to remove bots or malware.
“Spamming has morphed from an isolated hacker playing with some code into a well-developed underground economy that feeds off reputable users’ machines to avoid detection,” said MAAWG Chair Michael O’Reirdan, in a statement. “Consumers shouldn’t be afraid to use email, but they need to be computer smart and learn how to avoid these problems.”
The survey also found that about 20 percent of respondents admitted to having replied to a spam message or clicked a spammed link by mistake.