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Innovation in Information Security

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The Difference Between Theory and Practice

McAfee's Avert Labs recently provided some very enlightening insight into the very real difference between what people believe is going on, and what is really happening - specifically with respect to how their systems are protected by a current antivirus product.

While the figures demonstrate an increase in the percentage of users over the last three years who believe that they are maintaining up-to-date antivirus protection (weekly or daily updating), the percentage of users who are not actually running any protection (or maintaining protection at the level they think they are) have been dropping a lot slower than the first set of figures would suggest. With more than 90% of respondents indicating that they were maintaining daily / weekly coverage from their antivirus software, it might be somewhat of a surprise to see that 49% of respondents were actually not running any antivirus software, or antivirus software that was not updating definitions on a daily or weekly basis.

Even with significantly growing awareness by everyday users of the need for efficient and effective antivirus / antimalware software, and the increasing market penetration achieved by the security industry, the nature of rapidly evolving Information Security threats means that the baseline of protection is outstripping the ability of users to keep up (without some form of extra help).

While efforts to improve the baseline security of new systems, educate users, spread knowledge about threats, and spread knowledge about protective systems and applications is helping offset this increase in the threat to end users, it is nowhere near enough to keep up with the increasing threats. Confusion or misunderstanding about the level of protection provided to a particular system is a critical mistake that could lead to terrible results for end users.

With users beginning to make use of their systems and the networks they are connected to for more financially and personally sensitive activities, and with companies increasing the exposure of sensitive company and client data to the greater Internet, the need to keep ahead of the threats could not be more clear.

The original survey can be found at McAfee's site.

7 October 2007

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