Despite more than 80% of e-mail users being aware of bots, tens of millions respond to spam in ways that could leave them vulnerable to a malware, a worldwide online survey has revealed.
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Half of the 4,000 people surveyed by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) said they had opened spam, clicked on a link in spam, opened a spam attachment, replied or forwarded it.
All these activities make users vulnerable to fraud, phishing, identity theft and infection, the MAAWG Email Security Awareness and Usage Report said.
While most consumers said they were aware of the existence of bots, only one-third of respondents, which included 525 internet users in the UK, believed they were vulnerable to an infection.
Less than half said they saw themselves as the entity that should be most responsible for stopping the spread of viruses.
Internet users need to understand they are not powerless bystanders and can play a key role in standing up to spammers marking their e-mails as junk, said Michael O'Reirdan, MAAWG chairman.
The survey found that 46% of those who opened spam did so intentionally.
"This is a problem because spam is one of the most common vehicles for spreading bots and viruses," said O'Reirdan.
The malware is often unknowingly installed on users' computers when they open an attachment in a junk e-mail or click on a link that takes them to a poisoned website, he said.