Spam is continuing to spread as users are aware of dangers but fail to put their knowledge into practise.

A report this week from the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) claimed that even though over eighty per cent of email users are aware of the existence of bots, tens of millions respond to spam in ways that could leave them vulnerable to a malware infection.

In a survey, half of users said they had opened spam, clicked on a link in spam, opened a spam attachment, replied or forwarded it, with only one-third believed they were vulnerable to an infection.

Michael O'Reirdan, MAAWG chairman, said: “Consumers need to understand they are not powerless bystanders. They can play a key role in standing up to spammers by not engaging and just marking their emails as junk.

“When consumers respond to spam or click on links in junk mail, they often set themselves up for fraud or to have their computers compromised by criminals who use them to deliver more spam, spread viruses and launch cyber attacks.”

Statistics showed that almost half of those who opened spam did so intentionally, with 25 per cent wanting to unsubscribe or complain to the sender, 18 per cent wanted to see what would happen and 15 per cent were interested in the product.

Also, consumers are most likely to hold their internet or email service provider most responsible for stopping viruses and malware. Just under half see themselves as most responsible.

Mikko Hypponen, CTO at F-Secure, claimed that there is a particular problem with awareness of users when they step away from the desktop PC. When asked if there is a lack of concern when it comes to using a mobile phone as opposed to a computer, he said: “People look at solutions but need to see the problems, security on the mobile phone is not there and users need to consider a backup of their data.”

He also claimed that there spam is travelling too easily on social networks because of the social engineering tactics, with users' accounts hacked to send malware via direct messages that users are more likely to click on than from a stranger.