AlienVault has welcomed the latest set of Internet attitudes research from Ofcom – most notably the fact that 87 per cent of users have installed IT security software on their home computers, but cautions that this still leaves 13 per cent of users who are unaware of the significant risks they are running of not installing such software.
And, says Richard Kirk, Head of AlienVault in Europe, the Unified Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions specialist, the most worrying aspect here is that a sizeable number of those 13 per cent of home users probably adopt a similar approach if they have a computer at work.
“Given that the communication regulator’s report shows that 29 per cent of Internet users have been hit by a virus over the last 12 months – and a similar number also targeted by a phishing attempt – you start to realise how pervasive electronic hackery has become,” he said.
“I’m also worried that levels of concern about the Internet have fallen substantially over the last six years, as a wary Internet user makes for an informed user – both at home and in the workplace – especially against the backdrop of the average user being connected to the Net for 15 hours a week,” he added.
Kirk went onto say that with 79 per cent of adults saying they can now go online from a portable device whilst on the move, this has profound implications for business computing, as it means that four our of every five employees has the theoretical capability to access the office system remotely on a smartphone or laptop if they want to.
You don’t, he says, need to be a maths genius to crunch these figures and conclude that there are several million Internet users in the UK today who do not have an IT security application on their home machine and – by implication – are unaware of the security risks they run by doing so.
And taking that further, he adds, almost four-fifths of these users have the ability to connect with their office systems if they wanted to, using a portable device.
“Whoa – that a means a lot of adults are both unaware of the risks of not using security when hooked up to the Internet, yet they have the capability of plugging their smartphone or laptop into the office computers. The danger potential here is quite massive,” he explained.
“And if we add in the not insignificant fact that one in six users of social network site users happily share their contact details with anyone, or friends of friends, the potential for infections really starts to climb – a bit like the blood pressure of any IT security professional who reads these statistics,” he noted.
Kirk says that it says a lot about the `connected generation’ that more than a third of Internet users aged 16 to 34 do not read the terms and conditions on a Web site when accessing a given portal.
That’s a bit like not looking each way before crossing the road – it’s a major safety issue, except that we’re not talking about cars hitting the people, but electronic malware.
“We have now reached a Rubicon stage with the Internet, with people treating its presence as similar to an electric light in the home or office. They don’t notice its presence, but they do use it – almost without thinking – and that’s not a positive thing, unless you sell Internet services,” he said.
“It’s very easy to get sensationalist about this, but I cannot help thinking that a lot more education on security – both at home and in the workplace – is needed to help ensure that the 87 per cent of users who understand Internet security nudges far closer to 100 per cent. I also believe that with the Olympics looming and the threat of cyber-terrorism a distinct possibility then it’s even more sensible for users to think about their security,” he added.
“It’s good to hear that Ofcom works with safety bodies such as Get Safe Online, but if the user don’t understand why they need security, I think the regulator is on a losing wicket before they have even started. We need a lot more to be done for Internet safety.”