Identity theft prime concern, says survey

UK residents are more fearful of identity theft and credit card fraud than they are over computer security, according to a new global survey by Unisys.

The technology services and solutions company's Unisys Security Index measures the perceived level of risk and attitudes towards personal, financial, internet and national security issues.

The global report found that of the 978 adults in the UK asked, the majority of respondents (86 per cent) were worried about unauthorised access to, or misuse of, their personal information. A further 61 per cent were classified as "extremely" or "very worried" about the issue.

Unisys attributes the UK's anxiety over personal information to a series of high profile data breaches.

Vice president of identity management at Unisys Neil Fisher said that it was imperative that issues if identity theft were addressed by commercial organisations and governments with caution and vigilance.

"The digital age is bundled up with a whole new set of threats. A healthy dose of caution is the best weapon in staving off identity theft and compromise. People need to be vigilant and take measures to protect themselves," he said.

"Just as government has a responsibility to keep people safe, so too do individuals. There does need to be better public service education, though. Perhaps more adverts on the television warning of security dangers in the same way the government has drink-drive ads. But this issue is not perceived by the government as being that important," said Fisher.

Although the Security Index found that the second greatest worry for UK respondents was credit card fraud, with 84 per cent of those asked being nervous about the misuse of their cards, nearly half (53 per cent) were yet to feel the pinch of the dreaded credit crunch.

Only 33 per cent of UK residents were concerned about computer security in relation to viruses and unsolicited emails with a further 38 per cent not being concerned at all. The Security Index also found that only a third of respondents were worried about the security of their online shopping transactions.

However, the report did find that Britons still remain cautious over the security of their mobile phones and personal organisers to pay bills, bank or shop online.

The Security Index found that 80 per cent are not using their mobile phones or personal organisers to conduct financial transactions, while only five per cent used their mobile phone devices to offer secure modality, although Fisher predicted that this will change over time.

"The take-up of mobile payments is predicted to grow exponentially over the next few years. These findings suggest that telecoms providers, banks and retailers will be challenged to convince the public of the security of this new method of payment," he said.