G DATA research at CeBIT: A shocking 47% of PC users surf without virus protection
Bochum (Germany), March 4th 2008 - How well do home users protect themselves against the dangers of the Internet? There is a wide variety of opinions about this. Therefore G DATA conducted a large survey to pose exactly this question. In individual interviews, 500 computer users were asked about the status of their virus protection.The result is shocking: contrary to many predictions, many users still take the subject of IT security lightly despite increasing threats. Almost half of the computer users surveyed surf with absolutely no - or with out-of-date - antivirus solutions.
Everyone complains about the massive volume of spam and the dangers and threats posed by botnets, spyware and adware. But how much are German people doing to stop their computers from becoming part of the online crime machinery? Are PCs in Germany adequately protected against malicious code? In February this year, G DATA wanted to find out and asked 500 computer users in face-to-face interviews about the status of their virus protection.
“We expected a large number of PCs to be unprotected. But the results exceeded our expectations by far,” said Ralf Benzmüller, head of G DATA Security Labs.
Results of the G DATA Security survey
The vast majority - 96% - of users surveyed rely on Microsoft Windows operating systems for their home computers. The proportion of Linux or Mac OS users - for whom the subject is largely irrelevant - was just four percent.
How well protected are German PC users?
The threat of malware has been increasing explosively for the past year, at around 300%. Nevertheless, many PC users in Germany are apparently not being careful enough about protection against viruses, worms and Trojans: 29 percent of Windows users have no antivirus solution at all installed on their system. 18 percent had not updated their signatures for at least two weeks, making them largely ineffective against the latest threats. This means that 47 percent of PCs are poorly protected.
The threat from malware was definitely acknowledged by those surveyed - but as a rule it is clearly underestimated:
“I don’t know, frankly I guess I don’t have any real virus protection. But I’ve not had any problems so far.”
“I downloaded a trial version from the internet - which has probably expired.”
“I have the firewall that you get with Microsoft, but I don’t have any other protection.”
The consequences of inadequate virus protection were unclear to the majority of those surveyed: 73% of interviewees who had no virus protection at all said they used their computer for online banking. The fact that, in the event of an attack, banks that usually reimburse losses caused by online fraud would not do so for negligent customers with no security software, astonished the majority of interviewees.
Ralf Benzmüller is bewildered:
“The fact that 47% of survey participants have not adequately protected their computers against malware leaves us very disappointed. It was obvious that many of these unprotected computers are already infected with malware. In fact, tests in which our experts examined these computers on site showed that in 8 out of 11 cases the computer was already infected.
“The light-heartedness in dealing with the issue shocked us as well: comments like “I’ve never had a problem” demonstrated the ignorance. In fact infected computers do not cause any ‘problems’ - malware usually carries out criminal activities unnoticed in the background. Such careless users will inadvertently be accomplices to online criminals. They are contributing to the internet becoming such a dangerous place. The need for virus protection should be self-evident and the entire internet community needs to be protected against the spread of malware - but it seems we are a long way from that.”
Methodology of G DATA 2008 survey
G DATA executive Dr Dirk Hochstrate said: “We were struck by the fact that past surveys on this subject, especially online, were often very highly indicative of users being well-protected. We wondered whether the anonymity of web-based surveys was making it easier to produce less accurate results - because admitting that you are surfing without virus protection is of course something you want to avoid. So to prevent such systemic errors, we decided to hold face-to-face interviews using trained staff.”
The survey was conducted in 20 German cities between February 1st and 28th. The G DATA research team spoke in person to randomly-selected passers-by between the ages of 12 and 75 in shopping precincts. The criteria for selecting poll candidates were limited to owning a computer and using the internet. Besides a demographic profile, the questions were broadly reduced to two key areas:
1. Do you have an antivirus solution installed on your system?
2. Is your virus protection still up-to-date?
Then the reasons for and consequences of doing this were discussed individually.