Home Computer Users Highly Vulnerable
Kimberly Hill , www.enterprise-security-today.com
Home computer users who think that they are well protected from malevolent acts should think again. The vast majority of home computers operate at risk of intrusion by invasive code, according to the results of a study conducted by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance.
The results of the research show a huge gap between whether or not computer users think they are at risk and the reality of their situations. Nearly 80 percent of home computer users surveyed thought their computer was very or somewhat safe from online threats. However, nearly 70 percent of home computers did not have current antivirus software installed, and 20 percent of computers were infected with a virus.
Viruses, Viruses Everywhere
Outdated software presents one problem to home users looking to protect their machines from viruses. Two-thirds of the users surveyed had not updated their virus software within the last week.
More surprising, though, is the fact that 15 percent of users reported having no antivirus software at all on their computers. Nearly 20 percent were infected with a virus, and 63 percent said they had been the victim of a virus in the past.
Spyware on the Rise
A whopping 80 percent of home computers were infected with some version of spyware or adware, according to the researchers. Among the users of those computers, 88 percent did not know that their computer had such software running.
The researchers found that the average infected computer had 93 spyware or adware components. Almost all of the infected users (95%) said they never gave permission for the programs to be installed.
Such code has been the recent subject of legal action. The Federal Trade Committee has filed a complaint in federal court asking that an Internet advertising and software firm owned by "spam king" Sanford Wallace be shut down. Spyware, in particular, is a confusing issue for users, some of whom install supposedly protective software only to find that those programs themselves are spyware, Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, told NewsFactor.
This survey differed from others in that technicians actually visited the homes of participants to assess the state of their computers. A large majority of users requested that the technicians performing the security audits remove spyware from their computers.
Half of the computers examined that had a broadband connection had no firewall protection. That figure rose to 67 percent when those using dial-up connections were added. Almost 40 percent of those with wireless networks left their connection completely open, without any encryption scheme running.
Despite the lack of protection, 84 percent of respondents said that they kept sensitive information like health or financial records on their home computer. Nearly three-quarters said they used their home computer for sensitive online transactions, such as banking.