Malware risk is not what's keeping Australians from online banking, shopping: ACMA

Perceived risk from malware is not the thing keeping Australians from conducting online financial transactions online, recent research from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found.

ACMA's survey of 1500 Australian users, entitled Malware and Harmful Software: Consumer Views on Software Threats and Use of Protections, found that while the majority (88 per cent) of users conducted financial transactions online, their perceptions of the risk of that behaviour were nearly equal.

For example, 31 per cent of those who made no online financial transactions said it was likely or highly likely that malware could steal their personal information; the proportion amongst those conducting online transactions was 30 per cent.

Some 52 per cent of those using no online financial services said such malware was highly unlikely to affect them, while 48 per cent of those making online financial transactions believed such an effect was highly unlikely.

These results suggest that overall attitudes towards malware amongst online users remain constant regardless of whether they are transacting online. Therefore, their decision about whether to conduct financial transactions online is not related to any heightened perception of malware risk.

The report's authors didn't speculate as to the other reasons, but habit and preconceived notions were found to be strong indicators of security attitudes and behaviours. The survey evaluated perceptions towards the likelihood of malware impact and found, amongst other things, that many Australians justify their decision not to take protection against malware on perceptions of operating system security, lack of technical ability, or sheer disinterest.

Fully half of Australians believe they face no risk from malware at all, while non English speaking Australians perceive a higher degree of risk from malware than English speakers and young people are less concerned in general about malware than their older peers.

When it came to conducting financial transactions, however, users still preferred to use their home computer or laptop (89 per cent) over their mobile device (31 per cent) – although mobile devices were far more widely used (56 per cent) for social-network activities. Work computers or mobile devices, by contrast, were used by only 11 per cent of respondents for social networking and 22 per cent for online banking, shopping or paying bills.

Use of financial services online was also age-linked, with 91 per cent of 18 to 34 year-olds engaging in such online activities but just 85 per cent of 34-to-49 year olds, 66 per cent of 50-to-64 year olds, and 43 per cent of those older than 65 saying they engaged in online banking, shopping, bill payment or social networking.

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