Almost one million UK households have lost treasured family memories of babies, spouses and dream holidays because they are failing to keep their digital archives safe from cyber criminals, according to a new survey released by McAfee.
Based on a survey of 1,500 adults across Europe, the research revealed that over one in ten (12 per cent) of UK respondents (970,000 households) had permanently lost irreplaceable precious items or memories they had digitally stored on their PCs due to a virus.
The research found that there is £1.8 billion worth of unprotected music digitally archived on people's PCs which is at risk of attack from Internet criminals with over a third (39 per cent) of UK respondents now only storing their music digitally.
Despite the risks, more and more of us are ditching our old shoe boxes and manila envelopes as places to store our most valuable items, and instead using PCs, mobile phones and PDAs as our family and personal treasure troves:
* Two thirds (68 per cent) only archive their photos digitally
* Over a third (39 per cent) only house their music collection digitally ( average 246 tracks)
* Half (51 per cent) have their entire address book digitally archived (29 per cent solely on a mobile phone)
* Twenty four per cent store all personal banking and credit card details digitally
* Four per cent admit they would have no way of contacting many of their friends and colleagues if they lost their digital address book
* Three quarters (73 per cent) of those who have lost precious items blame themselves and admit they should have taken more precautions
The research also highlights contrasting attitudes and emotions when it comes to storing and safeguarding the things that matter most to people.
Spain tops Europe when it comes to digitally archiving their most precious items with three quarters (78 per cent) of people surveyed solely archiving their photos digitally (14 per cent of whom store their entire photographic memories digitally) and half (49 per cent) house their favourite music digitally.
Eighty nine per cent of respondents in Italy said they kept their entire address book of friends and colleagues digitally - the highest in Europe - but worryingly one in ten (nine per cent) of respondents said that they would permanently lose touch with many of their friends and associates if anything happened to their digitally stored address book.
Germany was the most cautious with half (48 per cent) of those surveyed archiving their photos online and a quarter (28 per cent) archiving their music digitally.
But Spain and Italy pay the price when it comes to losing items that matter most to them.
A third (30 per cent) of respondents in Spain and just under a third (29 per cent) surveyed in Italy had permanently lost precious items such as memories and music which they had digitally archived.
UK respondents said that they had lost the least ( only 12 per cent of respondents).
Emotions ran highest in Spain, where almost half (43 per cent) said they were genuinely worried about the risk of losing these digital archives of memories and items that really mattered to them.