Scary Numbers From Malware Land

I attended a recent event held in Auckland by AVG to launch the AVG 2011 Internet Security Software Suite. While scoffing my rather excellent lunch, I managed to pay attention long enough to garner some interesting information about the state of the virus and malware game.

Things certainly have changed. Around 99 percent of the threats to your computer are web-based. The days of getting an email with a malicious attachment are vanishing and the focus has shifted to providing security for online activities. I don’t open suspicious attachments, never have but given how much time I spend online, this is serious news.

Some other nasty numbers touted by the AVG crew are:

1. There have been 3.5 billion threats reported by the AVG community in 2010.

2. In 2006, the average computer faced around one or two malware attacks a day. In 2010, that number is up to about sixty attacks. Every day!

3. AVG’s LinkScanner detects one million infected web sites a day.

4. About 75 percent of infected web sites are up for less than a day, so they can’t be detected by traditional blacklist type programmes.

5. Identity thieves strike 8 million times a year in the USA and commit over $50 billion in fraud.

6. Spam is up 24% year on year

My response – a) thank goodness I run a Mac and b) shoot me now. Sixty attacks a day? How the heck does anyone get by without getting their computer shut down on a daily basis? They get by because the whole point of modern malware is to make money, not to shut down systems. If your personal data and identity can be hacked, or your computer compromised and forced to become part of a botnet or if you’re silly enough to fall for a phishing scam, then someone out there stands to make some loot. He’d obviously prefer your computer to keep running.

I’ve actually taken the unprecedented step of installing AVG’s LinkScanner on my Mac, just to give me an added layer of security. It’s not a full blown security package, it just scans every single website I look at in real time before my browser can actually get there. This may be completely unnecessary but the software is free, seems to work well and doesn’t slow down my computer. My PC is secured but it’s a secondary machine that I don’t use for banking or shopping.

The moral of the story is not to use a computer for anything. Ever. If you insist, then make sure you’re using an up to date security package – don’t think about them as “anti-virus” applications, they need to be broader than that. If your security software doesn’t have some kind of online protection in addition to a firewall, then you’re naked in the jungle and the predators are circling.

Also, I hate to say it but buy a Mac.

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