Misconceptions that mobiles and some computers are free from malware infections persist despite an explosion in infections on both types of devices, according to research from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The research also found that one in four of those who don't use malware protection do so because they don't see any reason to do so.
While 90 per cent of the 1500 Australians surveyed in the ACMA-driven Roy Morgan Research survey said they use protective software, a prevalence of high-risk malware behaviour categories confirmed that around one in five Australians is exposing themselves to risk from malware.
Some 10 per cent of respondents don't use protective software, while 18% don't avoid clicking on email links from unknown senders and one in four – 24 per cent of respondents – fail to keep their program software up to date.
Fully 19 per cent said they do not keep their operating systems up to date, while 22 per cent said they do not keep their Web browsers up to date despite the ongoing flood of new vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Internet Explorer and other platforms.
Asked why they do not take protective measures against malware or don't bother keeping their software and operating systems up to date, 15 per cent of respondents said they believed the brand of computer they have does not get malware or viruses; 12 per cent said they "don't need to"; 7 per cent said they had never experienced a problem or "don't see any reason to"; and 6 per cent said they "couldn't be bothered".
An additional 8 per cent said they don't have time to update their security, 7 per cent said it was too expensive, and 5 per cent said they don't use the computer often.
Although Macs were not specified in the research, the myth that Macs cannot be infected with malware has persisted for years but been shattered with the recent discovery of Mac-targeted malware such as Leverage and Janicab.A has disabused Mac owners of that notion.
Questions about mobile device protection produced equally striking results, with those who use their mobile device for online banking, paying bills, shopping or social networking asked whether their devices were secure. Just over half said they knew their device was protected, while 24 per cent said they know their device is not protected and another 24 per cent did not know.
Of those that believed their devices were protected, just 29 per cent had installed protective software themselves, while 36 per cent relied on the mobile operating system's built-in protections. Eight per cent said they had had no problems and believed the device had not been infected so far.
ACMA's survey report, entitled Malware and Harmful Software: Consumer Views on Software Threats and Use of Protections, concluded that half of Australians believe they face no risk from malware and found that non English speaking Australians perceive a higher degree of risk from malware than English speakers.