One in three homes in the UK were the victim of some form of cyber-attack in the first three months of the year.

That’s according to figures from Life Online, the largest study ever undertaken in broadband habits, commissioned by TalkTalk, the phone, broadband and mobile provider, and conducted by YouGov.

Almost one in three households (close to half of all homes with an internet connection) experienced some kind of cyber-attack according to the research, ranging from a full-scale hack through to being bombarded with unwanted ‘pop-up’ advertising. In the first three months of the year more than 700,000 attempts at identity theft were mounted on Britain’s homes. More than 107 trillion emails were sent on the internet in 2010, but a shocking 89% of them were spam: unwanted, harmful or illegal emails.

Last month the Office for National Statistics revealed that 21 per cent of UK internet users do not believe that they have sufficient skills to protect their personal data leaving online users feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Almost all respondents in the TalkTalk study agree that it’s important to protect their home internet connection from online threats but the strategies for doing so vary enormously with 10 per cent of broadband customers relying solely on their own vigilance rather than using security software.

The risks are not confined to adults. Twenty three per cent of parents say their children have accidentally downloaded a virus on to their home computer while five per cent of parents say they are aware of incidents where their children have given out personal information online; suggesting that at least 420,000 children aged 6-17 may have shared personal information with strangers. Unsurprisingly this is parents’ greatest fear with 73 per cent saying their single biggest concern about the online world is their children’s personal safety.

With growing concerns about internet safety and increasingly sophisticated means of accessing personal information in the home it is becoming more important for those who use the internet to take measures to safeguard themselves.

HomeSafe, a free network level security service from TalkTalk, alerts customers if they are about to visit a website that’s infected with malware. Built into the broadband network itself and unique to TalkTalk, HomeSafe protects every computer and device using the home internet. It is designed to be quick and easy to set up in five clicks or less and does not have to be downloaded onto any computer or device at home.  

HomeSafe also allows busy parents to control what websites their children can see online and when, even helping limit access to social networking sites like Facebook during homework time. In addition to HomeSafe, TalkTalk’s Super Safe Boost* provides protection against security threats, viruses and will remove existing infections, whether you’re connected in the home or out and about.

Tristia Clarke of TalkTalk said: “We’re committed to protecting each and every household. It would be a shame if fears about security and safety prevented anyone from enjoying all the benefits of the online world. People do have to take individual responsibility for their safety online but we do more than other ISP to help people stay safe.

Together HomeSafe and our Super Safe Boost provide TalkTalk homes with the UK’s most complete safety and security offering.”