Internet viruses are not as deadly and prolific as you might think, according to new research from Which Computing.
The computer watchdog connected five computers to the internet for four weeks and not one of them became infected (according to a scan from anti-virus firm Sophos), despite an estimated 60,000 new malaware threats occurring daily.
The PCs weren’t overloaded with security software either. In fact, one was such an easy target for would-be attackers it was practically saying ‘come and get me’.
Computer security is a genuine concern for many people. 57% of people surveyed by Which? Computing ‘worry about their computer being attacked by viruses and other threats’; a further 62% are worried about internet security, a fact that prevents 49% of them banking online, 33% shopping online and 25% using a social networking site such as Facebook.
These fears aren’t completely groundless. Which? Computing does stress that security software is essential as it only takes one breach to potentially wipe a PC’s data. Similarly, those running a wireless network need a reliable router.
The good news is that an average consumer doesn’t have to pay anything extra on top of their supplied operating system – free security software, combined with a common sense approach to computer use, offers adequate protection.
Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive, Which?, says: “While there are scammers out there looking to attack your computer, you’re safer than you may think online – as long as you’re adequately protected with anti-virus software. You don’t have to pay a penny for this protection either.”
Computer 1 ran the Windows 7 operating system, Internet Explorer 8 web browser, Windows 7’s (two-way) firewall and Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). It was also, effectively, protected behind a hardware firewall.
Computer 2 ran Windows XP (this has long been superseded, but we know from our surveys that many of you still use it), Internet Explorer 8, Windows XP’s built-in (one-way) firewall and MSE. It was also behind a hardware firewall.
Computer 3 ran Windows 7 (and its firewall) with Symantec’s Norton Antivirus 2011 with Antispyware (Norton 2011) and was behind a firewall.
Computer 4 ran Windows XP with no antivirus software, but was still behind a hardware firewall.
Computer 5 didn’t have a firewall and was broadcasting its IP address. This ran Windows 7 with Windows Security Essentials and the Windows 7 firewall.
For an hour a day, for four weeks, a computer expert used each machine to visit a list of 22 ‘reputable’ websites from Amazon.com to Tesco.com. Towards the second half of the fourth week, he went to file-sharing, bit-torrent sites and found many infected files.
1,042 adults completed the Which? Computing survey in October 2010.