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Viruses, hackers hit a third of Net users

Almost one in every three Internet surfers in the United States has been hit either by a computer virus or a hacker in the past two years, a new survey says.

Nearly 32 percent of Internet users surveyed in mid-July said they had been affected by a hacker or computer virus in the past two years.

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About 43 percent of them said they felt vulnerable on their home computers, while 17 percent felt they were vulnerable from viruses and hackers at work.

The survey, conducted by Edelman, a public relations firm, questioned more than one thousand adults nationwide.

American Internet users were warned by Microsoft last month of a new virus attack. On Monday, the new worm, MSBlast, infected at least 7,000 computers in a matter of hours, according to Symantec. Still, security experts said the spread was slowed because the virus program had several flaws.

The survey results indicate that West Coast residents are most likely to feel insecure on their office computers, and the most wealthy and educated feel the most vulnerable on the Net.

"It's interesting to see that people are feeling more secure in their Internet activities at the office," said Jim Burke, an Edelman senior vice president. "Maybe this is a result of the many technological advancements in security products over the past few years."