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Study: Consumers take cyberattacks lightly

More than a third of those surveyed said they had a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of being hit by malicious code.

Consumers have a casual approach toward cybersecurity and fail to grasp the pervasiveness of online threats, according to a study released Thursday.

More than a third of the 493 PC users surveyed by the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance said they had a greater chance of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning than of being hit by malicious code.

About 90 percent of computer users interviewed remembered the name of the performer from the last Super Bowl halftime show, while only 60 percent knew when they last updated their computer security program.

"Today, more than 185 million Americans own computers connected to the Internet--cybersecurity should become second nature, just like brushing our teeth," NCSA Chairman Ken Watson said in a release. "Industry projections note that by year-end, Internet users will have been confronted by an estimated 100,000 forms of malicious code. About 91 percent of PCs today are infected with spyware programs that send information from your PC to an unauthorized third party."

The NCSA survey is a precursor to results of a major in-home study on cybersecurity being done by the private-public partnership. The results of that study are expected next month. The NCSA has dubbed October as National Cyber Security month and will spend the month attempting to educate home users, small businesses and those who are involved in education.

The group has established a Web site with tips for staying safe online.