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Europe scared to do business over the web as EC doles out over £1bn in ICT research funding.

Forward-thinking business leaders look away now – a new survey has found that almost a third of Europe's Internet users (31 per cent) lack confidence when employing the Internet for financial transactions due to fear of falling victim to cyber crime.

Britons were more assured on average than the continent as a whole, with only 17 per cent saying they were "not confident" about banking or purchasing goods and services over the web. The findings are the result of a recent European Commission 'Eurobarometer' study.

UK respondents cited online payment security as their overriding concern, while Europe as a whole was most worried about data and identify theft in the digital world. In total, roughly 20 per cent of EU Internet users questioned said they had fallen victim to either online fraud or identity theft.

Issuing the results of the survey, the EU emphasised that public awareness was key when it came to combatting the varied threats posed by digital criminals.

"Cyber criminals must not be allowed to disrupt our use of the Internet. The more we know about the risks and how to protect ourselves, the more we can truly maximise our digital lives", said Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner for Home Affairs.

Despite the prevalence of fear of cyber crime, few Europeans reported taking precautionary measures online, with 53 per cent admitting they had failed to change their passwords in the last 12 months. Indeed, less than half (49 per cent) of UK Internet users surveyed said that they had even installed anti-virus software on the back of their concerns.

The statistics are part of a new EC survey of some 27,000 people designed to explore the online fears of Europe's netizens, with security experts recently warning that governments are not doing enough to fight cyber crime.

The findings were released on the same day that the EC outlined plans to dedicate over £1 billion pounds to ICT research in a bid to boost economies across the continent, with cyber crime and its prevention continuing to emerge as a key enterprise issue.

"Knowledge is the currency of the global economy. If Europe wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support the research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs, now and in the future," said European research, innovation and science commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

The EC also recently invested nearly £8 million in cloud infrastructure.