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Study Shows Even the Most Savvy of Users are Failing to Properly Protect Themselves Against Online Threats

August 3, 2009 by  

Web Hosting ToolsAmsterdam – A recent survey of the cyber security habits of the working press raises interesting questions about the practices of users in general. In spite of the high visibility the media has given to cyber security, members of the press are dropping the ball in efforts to protect themselves against online threats. Recently conducted by the BPM Forum and AVG Technologies, the Protect the Press Poll found that 80 percent of media staff rarely or never inform their network administrator of online security concerns they encounter. More than half don’t change their passwords, or rely on their company to do it for them, even though 13 percent have experienced critical data loss or system failure due to malware to their systems.

“It is disconcerting to see what in concept is a very informed audience knowingly rolling the dice when it comes to staying secure on line – it is an important indicator of the practices of the general consumers,” said Siobhan MacDermott, head of global communications and investor relations with AVG. “If the informed press is exposed, then even more so is the home user that is not as savvy at detecting or protecting against the latest scam.”

These findings are part of a startling online Protect the Press Poll survey of more than 100 online, print, and broadcast media to examine the security priorities, prevention mechanisms, and breaches that editors, reporters, and publishers face in their daily business. The results suggest that they are largely at risk of compromise or infection from online activities conducted to develop a story.

Like consumers, nearly 70 percent of press reporters and editors feel threatened by online malware or spyware, and most feel at risk conducting everyday online activities as part of their business, including downloads, email, and correspondence with story sources yet most are failing to take basic steps to secure their cyber activities. “As governments continue to fight against cybercrime and cyberterrorism, users that knowingly take risks and fail to secure their systems make the community more vulnerable,” added MacDermott.

MacDermott said it is interesting that while 57 percent of the reporters surveyed considered themselves advanced or expert at detecting online risks ( 52 percent of those polled have actually covered the topic of online security and privacy) the majority were failing to follow basic security practices. In fact, nearly 60 percent of those that placed importance on information security never changed their password.

“The value of the research is not that it exposes journalists, but rather it gives us great insight to how our more knowledgeable users are, or are not, protecting themselves,” said MacDermott. “This tells the security community that we have a great deal of work to do as users are not doing many of the basics.”

More than 40,000 new viruses and other malware arrive in virus labs around the world every day. The most damaging and widespread of these attacks have caused billions in losses. While the attacks are well documented in the media, more than 60 percent feel that their IT department or service provider is doing just an “OK”job or not very well at protecting their computers. Spam, phishing, and malware infection are the top threats that editors face. Like many other industries, the media faces compounded risks due to their increased dependence on
wireless access and social networking to do their job. The survey shows that:
– 36 percent use Wi-Fi networks most of the time, potentially endangering them to security risks associated with public networks
– 90 percent of them use some sort of social networking site, with LinkedIn (75 percent) the most popular site followed by Facebook (70 percent) and Twitter (51 percent).
– 20 percent access social networking sites both from their mobile phone and their computer

“Clearly, we’ve got to do a better job as a security community in shifting the mentality of our users from one that is dependent on the system to keep them safe to one that takes personal accountability and understands their role in the security continuum,” MacDermott concluded. “Users have to understand they are a vital piece of equation and that they have a great deal of ownership in shoring up their cyberspaces.”

About AVG Technologies
AVG is a global security solutions leader protecting more than 80 million consumers and small business computer users in 167 countries from the ever-growing incidence of web threats, viruses, spam, cyber-scams and hackers on the Internet. Headquartered in Amsterdam, AVG has nearly two decades of experience in combating cyber crime and one of the most advanced laboratories for detecting, pre-empting and combating Web-borne threats from around the world. Its free online, downloadable software model allows entry-level users to gain basic anti-virus protection and then to easily and inexpensively upgrade to greater levels of safety and defense in both single and multi-user environments. Nearly 6,000 resellers, partners and distributors team with AVG globally including Amazon.com, CNET, Cisco, Ingram Micro, Play.com, Wal-Mart, and Yahoo!.

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