Users confuse spyware with Star Wars

Survey: IT directors are worried that most of the population have no idea what spyware is, with a sizeable minority believing it is something they have seen in a movie

Some 11 percent of the British population are convinced that spyware is "a gadget from Star Wars", according to research published on Thursday.

The survey, carried out by NOP and commissioned by security company Blue Coat, appears to highlight a lack of concern in the UK market about spyware, with more than half of those surveyed unaware that spyware is software on a user's computer that tracks their behaviour and reports it back to a third party.

While 33 percent of adults are concerned about viruses, according to the survey, only 8 percent show any concern for spyware. Just under a third (30 percent) of adults said they used a spyware checker every day, but that drops to only 16 percent of adults who used a spyware checker when they were using their computer for personal use.

The survey highlighted an issue that is now of grave concern to companies, including Microsoft which last month enhanced its anti-spyware software; spyware, which was once considered merely irritating, is now seen as a threat because the innocuous pop-ups that are typical of both adware and spyware can shield viruses and worse.

"Clearly this is a huge problem for the enterprise," said Nigel Hawthorn, vice-president of marketing for Blue Coat.

"Spyware and the nature in which it attacks should be viewed as the smiling assassin. Enterprises should face up to the problem, educate their users and take the spyware threat very seriously indeed."