Nearly half of Microsoft's UK users have been infected by a virus in the past year, according to a survey carried out by the company.
Of the 1,500 Windows customers questioned across the country, 44 per cent had suffered from a virus and almost a quarter had been affected by spyware, phishing or online banking fraud.
Yet despite these problems a fifth of those surveyed said that PC security does not concern them at all. A further 17 per cent indicated that they were worried about security but were not going to do anything about it.
People were most concerned about losing emails (51 per cent) and photos (48 per cent) rather than work projects (34 per cent) or music (18 per cent). Of those surveyed, 60 per cent rated the PC as a 'life essential' above their wallets, phones or cars.
"As this survey shows, PCs are increasingly becoming the hub of people's lives for communication, entertainment and storing personal data," said Windows product manager Joel Davies.
"Because internet threats are not tangible, it can be easy to underestimate the damage they can cause. But it is vital to protect the personal data on your PC in the same way as you would take out insurance on your mobile or make sure you keep your doors locked."
Men were found to be more likely than women to get hit by viruses and nearly twice as likely to fall prey to phishing scams. The south east emerged as home to the most protected PCs.
The research was carried out as part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about Windows XP Service Pack 2. Four-fifths of SP2's code is devoted to enhancing security.
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