Internet users are becoming more knowledgeable about security issues and less willing to provide personal information online.

According to research by Ofcom, 80 per cent of adults with a social networking profile are now more likely to only allow friends or family to see it, compared with 48 per cent in 2007. However, around a quarter of internet users lack confidence in installing filtering software and security features.

It also found that around three quarters (73 per cent) of adults used the internet in 2009, up from two-thirds (63 per cent) in 2007. With regard to trusting online services, 30 per cent of UK adults now prefer to check their bank balance online compared with 22 per cent in 2005, while 36 per cent of adults now prefer to book holidays online or by email – making it now as popular as booking in person.

Half of all internet users say that using the internet has increased their contact with friends or family who live further away, and around a quarter say it has increased their contact with friends who live nearby.

Commenting, Matthew Bruun, security expert at VeriSign, said: “It's refreshing to see the increased amount of people who are taking the appropriate steps to protect themselves online.

“It's great that 80 per cent of us are being careful online. But to create a safe society we need to shoot for 100 per cent. We need to be consistently aware of the havoc that cyber criminals can wreak against you with just a few pieces of your personal data. To a social networker, posting a date of birth, phone number and address might not be a big deal; to a cyber fraudster it's a golden opportunity.”

Carl Leonard, security research manager EMEA at Websense, said: "It's heartening news that UK internet users are more aware of the dangers online. However, as users are becoming more savvy, cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated efforts. They now attempt to produce very convincing mimics of trusted sources to spread malware and viruses. Cyber criminals know they have to try and be one step ahead."