maawg studyTens of millions of consumers say they’re aware of ‘bots, yet they continue to interact with spam. Chalk it up to some sort of blissful, can’t-happen-to-me oblivion.

The Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) just completed a survey of North American and European consumers and found that despite their awareness of the dangers, they’re playing with spam in ways that can leave them vulnerable to malware infections. Half had opened spam, clicked on a link in spam, opened a spam attachment, or replied or forwarded to spam. All these actions open the door to fraud, phishing, identity theft and infection.  Most consumers said they’re aware  ‘bots exist, but only a third believe they’re vulnerable to an infection.

“Consumers need to understand they are not powerless bystanders. They can play a key role in standing up to spammers by not engaging and just marking their emails as junk, said MAAWG ChairmanMichael O’Reirdan.
“When consumers respond to spam or click on links in junk mail, they often set themselves up for fraud or to have their computers compromised by criminals who use them to deliver more spam, spread viruses and launch cyber attacks.”

Key findings from the survey of users in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US include:

•    Almost half of consumers who opened spam did so intentionally. Many wanted to unsubscribe or complain to the sender (25%); to see what would happen (18%); or were interested in the product (15%).
•    Overall, 11% of consumers have clicked on a link in spam; 8% have opened attachments; 4% have forwarded it and the same number have replied.
•    On average, 44% of users consider themselves “somewhat experienced” with email security.  In Germany, 33% of users see themselves as “expert” or “very experienced,” followed by c. 20% in Spain, the UK and the US, 16% in Canada and 8% in France.
•    Men and email users under 35 years, the same groups who consider themselves more experienced with email security, are more likely to open or click on links or forward spam.  Among email users under 35 years, half report having opened spam compared to 38% of those over 35. Younger users were more likely to have clicked on a link in spam (13%) compared to less than 10% of older consumers.
•    Consumers are most likely to hold their ISP most responsible for stopping viruses and malware.  Only 48% view themselves as most responsible, though in France this falls to 30%, and 37% in Spain.