Warning overload? Half of PC users ignore virus alerts – and middle-aged are “worst culprits”

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Middle aged PC users routinely ignore warnings that sites may harm their computers – and that figure has doubled since 2011, according to research by ESET Ireland.

People aged 35-44 are now twice as likely to disregard warnings about attack websites as they were two years ago, according to a survey conducted by ESET Ireland. One in five users will now ignore the warning and visit websites anyway.

Urban Schrott, ESET Ireland’s Cybercrime Analyst points out that risky behaviour is growing across all categories – and overall, just 52% comply with warnings.

A recent study by UC Berkeley researchers found that   “warning fatigue” means important alerts over site security can be completely ignored – due to the frequency of warnings built into browsers such as Chrome.

Users of Google’s Chrome ignored SSL warnings (relating to a secure protocol used for passwords, internet transactions and banking) 70.2% of the time, a study of 25 million real-life warnings found. A full We Live Security report of the  research can be found here.

Younger users are more sensible – at least when it comes to antivirus warnings – with 15-24 year olds now 11% more likely to comply with warnings (46% compared to 35% in 2011 in two surveys conducted by Irish firm Amárach Research.

Of those polled, 19% stayed on a website they were warned about (rising from 15%), 24% ignored the warning when they tried to open a potentially infected file or program (again rising from 14%).

Both of these could lead to serious malware infections – particularly if users do not regularly update software such as their browser.

“ Malware is not used just to annoy users, but to steal their passwords, banking and credit card details, entangle them in scams and fraud, etc., all things that can have serious financial consequences,” says Schrott.

“Is visiting that one dodgy site really worth that risk? Can we seriously expect our information superhighway traffic to be safe, if only one half of the drivers notices the traffic lights, one quarter willingly ignores them and one in twelve drives without brakes?

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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