Comment: Age of insecurity

6 Dec 2005

At the Make IT Secure day last month we were treated to some figures showing the awareness (or lack of it) that Irish people have about IT security and the news is not good.

Although a survey conducted after last year’s campaign saw a measurable improvement in public awareness of IT security, much of the progress that was made then has since been pegged back over the summer and early autumn.

Virus and spam statistics from the Irish email and hosting provider IE Internet fill in the details of this particular story. Its figures over the past few months show a marked rise in viruses and a reduction in the volume of unsolicited email arriving into Irish inboxes. The spam slowdown is something we have no control over — and can’t take the credit for — but as for the viruses, the buck stops with us.
As the figures show, the rate of virus infection in emails circulating here is approaching the 20pc mark. October’s figures were an all-time high.

In the rush to address the latest threats, we need to be careful not to forget the basics. People should still be wary about opening email attachments from people they don’t know. Even those that appear to come from a trusted source but are short on personal greetings or poorly spelt should be a dead giveaway — there’s every chance these messages could be carrying a malicious payload.

The reasons for the high and rising rate of virus infection are simple: people out there have compromised computers and either aren’t aware of it or they don’t know how to tackle the problem. There’s also every chance that they don’t have a notion as to how the virus got on to their PC in the first place.

Welcome as the campaign is, if we’re honest we should see that its message bears repeating at any time of the year; smart businesses should be informing and educating their users on a regular basis and shouldn’t need an expensive publicity campaign to kick them into action.

By Gordon Smith