Melbourne, May 19 : Majority of online users are not equipped with latest internet security skills, thus making one in five home computers infected by malicious software, according to a first time survey of ordinary users' online behaviour.
The survey, conducted by Australia's national computer emergency response team, AusCERT on 1001 respondents, has disclosed that there are many misunderstandings about internet safety and a lack of security skills that can lead to major security threats to home computers.
According to Graham Ingram, general manager, AusCERT, 75 percent of home users opt for an administrator account for connecting to the Internet, and 54 per cent stay permanently connected. Both these are poor security practices and make the computers vulnerable to attackers.
AusCERT Home Users Computer Security Survey revealed that 84 per cent use their computer for Internet banking, 66 per cent for electronic payments, and 52 per cent for buying and selling online.
It also found that while 11 per cent of respondents never bothered to update their operating system, mostly Microsoft Windows XP, 8 per cent never updated their anti-virus software.
The survey, conducted by Nielsen disclosed that 30 percent of the respondents confessed that they click on links in spam email, 35 per cent connected to risky peer-to-peer networks for file-sharing, and 5 per cent made use of a neighbour's unsecured WiFi access point.
However, on the flip side, 94 percent of the respondents have anti-virus software installed, 86 per cent use a firewall, and 42 per cent use anti-phishing tools. Still, 23 per cent reported confirmed malware infections, which makes up almost one in four machines, and around 14 per cent of those affected did not care to fix the problem.
According to Ingram, the survey was a "first attempt to get our heads around the issues" and the data provided a valuable starting point."
"This is a big step forward, and the good news is that people are clearly concerned about securityBut obviously we need to better target user awareness, particularly for those people who want to listen. We need to dig deeper to understand what's happening with malware because we don't know what that is, but we do know that malware is increasingly malicious and becoming much more difficult to deal with," The Australian quoted him, as saying.
He further added that it is not only technologies that would fix home user security.
"A large percentage of people who kept their anti-virus software up to date still got infected, so it's time to rethink the message that you'll be safe if you update your anti-virus. The message now is that there's not any one thing you have to do to protect yourself, there's a whole series of things you have to do - and you have to get all of them right," he said.
Ingram said that getting to know about people's actual online behaviour may aid AusCERT in coming up with new approaches to home user security and the advice it gives.