Internet consumers continue to express high concerns about online threats such as viruses, spam, and identity theft, according to a survey by the American Consumer Institute (ACI), though the level of concern was somewhat lower than expressed in last year’s survey.

Topping the list, 63% of consumers saying they were “very concerned” with identity theft, followed by high concerns from virus and privacy threats, which were 55% and 53%, respectively. High concerns about spam and unwanted online ads were down sharply from surveys over the last three years, possibly reflecting the availability of better software protection and network management tools, or consumer acceptance of spam as more of a nuisance than a high threat.

Some 47% of consumers said they are very concerned with spyware, a figure slightly higher than a year ago. In a new question, only 10% of consumers were very concerned that their Internet Service Provider would block them from visiting a webpage.

Click here for the online-opinions-table

“The survey shows that consumers see real differences between threats that can cause them serious problems and those that come under the heading of annoyances,” ACI president Steve Pociask says. “Identity theft remains the number one concern for consumers, followed by viruses, privacy and spyware — all of which can be extremely disruptive for consumers, particularly as they affect online safety and the use of personal online information. Spam and unwanted ads appear to be simple nuisances.”

The latest national survey was based on 578 households with Internet service, was conducted by telephone and has a confidence interval of plus or minus 3.8 percent. Consumers were asked to rate each risk from 1 to 5, with 5 being “most concerned,” as summarized in the above table.