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Consumers Think Their Computers Are Protected When They Really Aren't

There's a must-read article at CNNMoney which you should also forward to everyone on your e-mail list. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the McAfee, Inc. software company recently completed an online survey of consumers' computer usage and data security. Basically, consumers think that they are practicing safe computing when in fact they aren't.

First, the good news. Consumers seem to be aware of online viruses and threats:

  • 98% of survey respondents agreed that keeping their online security up-to-date is important
  • 87% use anti-virus software
  • 73% use a firewall
  • 70% use anti-spyware software
  • 27% use anti-phishing software

However, many consumers don't adequately protect their home computer:

  • 48% had not updated their computer's anti-virus software within the past month
  • 54% had been hit with a virus
  • 44% thought their computer was infected with spyware

Then, the bad news really piles up:

"When researchers were able to conduct a remote scan of consumers' computers, their findings revealed a significant gap between perception versus reality, where consumers thought they were protected, when in fact, they were not. In particular, the following results illustrate:"

  • "While 81 percent have a firewall installed on their computer, only 64 percent actually activated this anti-hacker protection"
  • "While 70 percent of respondents say they have anti-spyware software, 55 percent actually did"
  • "While 27 percent say they have anti-phishing protection, 12 percent actually do"

The McAfee study also included an interesting age-related finding:

"Americans ages 45 and older show more savvy than their younger counterparts when it comes to cyber security... 25% of them are fully protected versus just 18% of Americans ages 44 and younger."

Face it. Your family, friends, and classmates use some pretty buggy computers. Which means that the files they share are buggy, too. This is one reason why I rarely open the e-mail file attachments I receive at home from family, friends, and classmates.

The security products on my laptop automatically update about once daily, but often several times daily. My security software automatically runs a full system scan at least once weekly.

The bottom line: we consumers make it unnecessarily more difficult to lobby legislatures about stronger identity theft laws covering data breaches by employers, former employers, and retailers when we still leave our home computers vulnerable. Companies realize this.


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