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Users continue not to install antivirus software, believe they have protections they don't

Every year there's a kickoff for a campaign on cyber-security awareness in the form of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  The campaign looks to better inform people on the hazards that may await them online.  Each year, Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance perform some basic assessments of users' internet behaviors and each year they get a disappointing confirmation that many Americans still just don't get some important concepts cyber security.

In the most recent study, conducted by October 2, there were some signs of progress.  Most Americans were aware that the internet presented many dangers from identity theft to computer hijacking.  Additionally most believed they were taking steps to counter these threats.

However, there appears to be a growing trend towards a false sense of security.  Of those surveyed, 80 percent claimed to have a firewall installed on their system.  However, only 42 percent actually had sufficient firewall defenses.  NCSA (National Cyber Security Alliance) and Symantec obtained the information via a combination of polling and checks performed by Symantec's PC Help by Norton. 

NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser described at a National Press Club conference, "We must redouble our efforts to ensure that Americans know how to use all of the tools necessary to protect their computers, themselves and their families from harm.  Too often, cyber-security has been made to seem complicated and inaccessible. Staying safe online appears daunting for users."

The National Cyber Security Awareness Month enjoys the support of many partners, government and public.  Its supporters include the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), Symantec, McAfee, Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

While Americans remain very confused on cyber security, Mr. Kaiser says that "great strides" are being made to convince these individuals to change their habits.  He credits the campaign for part of this progress.  The campaign target spyware awareness for the early focus of the four-year cyber security campaign.  The study founded that users' assessment of their spyware protection matched reality closely, with 83 percent saying they had it and 82 percent actually having it.  Still, Mr. Kaiser and others say it is alarming that almost a fifth of internet-connected Americans have no spyware protection.

Adam Rak, senior director of public affairs for Symantec, warns, "Anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software are the front-line basic protections that all Americans should have."

At least the survey illustrates that Americans are starting to understand the danger that exists.  Only 26 percent of those polled said that there computers were "very safe" against viruses, and only 21 percent responded that their computers were "very safe" versus hacker assaults.  DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Gregory Garcia praised the program, claiming that in 2007 it reached 133 million Americans.  Last year Canada joined the program as well.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced in a statement, "Because no single entity owns the Internet, the federal government needs the cooperation of both the private sector and everyday citizens to protect against a range of cyber-threats."

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RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By Spivonious on 10/6/2008 10:50:49 AM , Rating: 2
Just to add a qualifier to my claim, I've been using computers since 1985 (go Apple II/C!), and computers connected to the Internet since 1994 (and before then using Prodigy).

RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By Lord 666 on 10/6/2008 10:55:58 AM , Rating: 4
Then this disclaimer is more of a disqualifier as you clearly do not represent the average American.

RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By porkpie on 10/6/2008 7:14:07 PM , Rating: 3
I don't run antivirus software either, and I've used a computer almost every day for the past 15 years.

Not doing stupid things like opening email with attachments is better security than things like Norton AV.

RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By threepac3 on 10/6/2008 12:28:00 PM , Rating: 2
I have always wondered this: How can you say you don't get viruses(trojins, worms, destructive malware), if you don't use a good anti-virus or firewall program?

RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By rykerabel on 10/6/2008 6:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
By installing one.
Testing for viruses.
And after finding that yes, basic precautions > virus and thus there are none and AV is not needed, then uninstalling the Antivirus software.

Same here, been online since 1987 (DARPAnet) and I only install/test/uninstall AV twice a year. Have only gotten a virus once when my son downloaded a program from Disney O.o and I removed that one manually without any software (and tested using software to confirm).

RE: I guess I'm "befuddled"
By Zoomer on 10/6/2008 9:48:03 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, me too.

The only virus I came across was a harmless little POS that I caught while I was scanning an incoming unknown floppy on my 486. Don't remember it's name, unfortunately. Back then, mcafee was actually good.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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