Majority of Singapore smartphone users don't have antivirus installed

Amid a growing number that is using mobile phones to access the web, only 3 in 10 smartphone users in the country have installed antivirus tools on their device, believing it to be unnecessary.

More households in Singapore are tapping mobile phones to access the internet, but few individuals have installed antivirus tools on their smartphones.

Some 96 percent of homes used their web-enabled phones to go online in 2014, up 62 percent from 2010, according to an annual survey conducted by Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). The research on the country's household ICT usage polled 3,500 homes and some 3,500 residents via face-to-face interviews, based on a sample provided by the Singapore Department of Statistics.

Household internet penetration hit 88 percent last year while broadband access reached 87.5 percent, increasing 3 percent and 4 percent, respectively, from 2012 numbers. Some 62 percent of homes had fibre broadband, up from just 25 percent in 2012, while 56 percent had wireless broadband access, compared to 38 percent two years ago.

More of Singapore's silver generation also were becoming internet-savvy, with 63 percent and 75 percent of those aged between 50 and 59 using the computer and accessing the internet, respectively, last year, up 14 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from 2012.

In addition, more than 75 percent of these senior citizens had used a smartphone to access the web in the past three months, up 30 percent from two years ago.

Despite the increase in smartphone usage and web access, only 30 percent of respondents who went online via their device over the past three months had installed antivirus tools on their smartphones, with 53 percent believing the protection to be unnecessary. On home computers, however, about 8 in 10 had installed antivirus software and carried out security updates.

The survey further revealed that 19 percent of those without such tools on their smartphones were unaware that their device could be affected by viruses, while 16 percent did not know there were antivirus tools available for mobile devices.

This might be worrying since some 1.44 million Singapore consumers shopped online last year, according to IDA, with 75 percent of respondents aged between 35 and 49 having made a purchase in the past three months. In fact, about 7 in 10 online shoppers spent at least S$100 on their online purchases over the last three years, while 10 percent of respondents were the top spenders, forking out more than S$2,000 for their online buys.

Credit card was the most popular payment option, used by 75 percent of respondents, while 27 percent used their debit card or paid through their bank account.

Among the most popular items purchased online in the past three months were clothing, footwear, sporting goods or accessories, comprising 63 percent of respondents' shopping carts. Another 34 percent of online shoppers purchased travel products, while 29 percent bought tickets for entertainment events.