Consumer Reports on 'State of the Net': It's a jungle out there

A “State of the Net” survey due out Monday from Consumer Reports, the most widely trusted name in consumer protection, makes clear that Americans continue to have ample cause to distrust Internet interactions … yet many remain woefully ignorant in terms of protecting themselves – and their children -- from the most obvious dangers.

The combination has cost consumers $7 billion over two years, according to Consumer Reports. (It also reminds us that IRS employees are hired from the same gene pool in which we all swim.)

The sweeping study does include nuggets of good news, however, including a contention that less spam is hitting consumer inboxes.

In addition to the survey, a related Consumer Reports test of nine security software suites finds that one from Trend Micro offers the best combination of performance and price.

Among the survey findings:

Computer viruses have prompted 1.8 million households to junk their PCs over the past two years, while spyware has claimed another 850,000 machines in just the past six months.

Not surprisingly given those numbers, 17 percent of PC users lack any virus protection and a third of respondents fail to guard their machines against spyware.

Extrapolating from the survey results, some 650,000 people have bitten on a spam-promoted product or service offerings over the past six months (and there’s no way that they all live in Florida).

Five percent of those surveyed who have children under the age of 18 report that their kids have inadvertently been exposed to pornography through spam, while the Consumer Reports press release made no mention of how many kids opened smutty spam on purpose.

While lawmakers continue to hound MySpace 24/7, we learn that not all parents are worried sick over the notion that Junior or Missy may be divulging too much 411 online:  Among respondents whose kids go online, 13 percent of the youngsters registered on MySpace failed to meet the site’s 14-year-old age minimum, and 3 percent were younger than 10. As the press release notes: “And those were just the ones the parents knew about.”

The September issue of Consumer Reports includes all of the gory details.

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