One-third of U.S. consumers fear shopping online

One in three U.S. online adults said security fears compelled them to shop less online or not at all over the last holiday season, new research has claimed.

According to the post-holiday survey released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), one in five respondents said internet security had them "very concerned" or "extremely concerned." Those concerns ran highest among those 55 and older (31 percent said they were "very" or "extremely" concerned).

However, the study found that seven out of 10 U.S. online adults said internet security concerns did not curtail them from making purchases online, and 38 percent of online holiday shoppers said they spent more online than they did last year.

Of those surveyed respondents who said they shopped online during the holiday season, many said they felt "very confident" or "extremely confident" of their protection from computer viruses (56 percent), credit card fraud (50 percent), identity theft (46 percent) and spyware (41 percent).

They reported lower confidence in protection from having their personal information being sold to a third party. Twenty-eight percent say they felt very or extremely confident, while 24 percent said they felt very or extremely confident they would not receive spam emails.

"The vast majority of shoppers refuse to let security fears stop them, and it appears that many are taking proactive steps to protect themselves and their computers. Yet, a substantial number of shoppers are still wary about e-commerce safety," said Diane Smiroldo, BSA's vice president of public affairs. "We don't doubt that the wide availability of effective security software products that detect and fight cyber security threats is helping to restore consumer confidence in the security of online transactions. Nevertheless, consumers must first recognize that their best defense against potential threats is having a working knowledge of the threats that exist so that they can make informed decisions about the safety of particular e-commerce sites before they buy."

The majority of all survey respondents (62 percent) believe that it is safer to shop online from a home computer than a computer at a school, library or other public location or one's place of work. Computers used for holiday shopping were well armed with protective software: 88 percent of online holiday shoppers said the computers they used for shopping had anti-virus software installed, and more than three quarters reported having anti-spyware software (78 percent), firewall protection (77 percent) and spam blocking software (77 percent).

Confidence in home systems may make employers happy. Among those who shopped online this holiday season, nine out of 10 said they did so on a home computer. Only 26 percent admitted to shopping from their work computer.

The survey, which was commissioned by BSA and conducted in late December by Harris Interactive, examined 2,152 U.S. online adults' holiday shopping patterns in relationship to their internet security confidence.

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