New bugs plague net security

16 Nov 2004

Never mind worms and bugs as internet threats – bees and ants are the new risks for Irish businesses. As part of an independent report into IT security commissioned by Novell, two kinds of workers have been identified as exposing organisations to malicious attacks.

The research claims that staff are central to spreading viruses. More than one third of respondents admitted they were not aware of basic virus prevention measures and close to 25pc said they were too busy to check emails before opening them. Nine out of 10 workers believe they have no part to play in preventing the circulation of malicious code.

According to the report, two distinct employee types have emerged whose behaviour adversely affects their organisation’s security: ANTS and BEES. ANTS, or apathetic non-technical staff, show little concern for virus attacks. The research found that more than 20pc would “not be particularly bothered” if they discovered a virus attack and just one in four said they would be worried if they had been personally to blame for spreading a virus.

The second category are known as BEES, busy employees endangering security, who are so snowed under with work that they present a different kind of danger. Some 40pc of Irish workers said they felt overwhelmed by the number of emails they get. A further 33pc claimed to be too busy to check emails before opening them, which is an important element in preventing the spread of viruses and worms. One in seven people were reported as being too busy to download anti-virus updates, meaning they are more likely to expose the company systems to malicious attackers. One in six BEES write their computer passwords down to help them remember and nearly one in ten keeps them on a Post-It note on their desk or in their drawer at work.

Other findings from the research showed that 63pc of respondents regularly forward spam to friends and colleagues without thinking. More than one third said they were too busy to spot infected emails. Almost the same amount admitted to replying to spam mails – validating their company’s email address in the process.

More than 61pc of those polled said they based their passwords on easily guessed items such as names of family or friends – a practice security experts continuously advise against. In addition, only one third of respondents felt that forwarding x-rated material by email would have a negative impact on their career.

Kevin McAteer, sales manager for Novell Ireland said there were “thousands of Irish workers, who through lack of time, technology know-how or care, put their business at risk by making basic security errors”. He added: “Preventative technology is a must to help stop virus infiltration and computer password abuse, but it’s not the whole story. Unless you educate workers and provide basic dos and don’ts you may as well put a sign above your business saying ‘hackers and viruses welcome’.”

By Gordon Smith