SA computer users leave the front door wide open

One in every four computers in South Africa is running unprotected, without up-to-date real-time anti-virus or anti-malware protection – and without this vital protection layer, these systems are five times more likely to be infected with malware.

One in every four computers in South Africa is running unprotected, without up-to-date real-time anti-virus or anti-malware protection (image: file)

That was one of the key findings of Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report volume 14 (SIRv14), released this week at the company’s TechEd 2013 conference at Durban’s ICC.

According to the report, network worms are on the decline and web-based attacks have risen to become the number one threat facing enterprises today.

The proportion of Autorun threats reported by enterprise computers decreased by 37% from 2011 to 2012 – but seven out of the top ten threats affecting enterprises were associated with malicious or compromised websites, said Dr Khomotso Kganyago, chief security adviser at Microsoft South Africa.

The report found that enterprises were more likely to encounter the iFrame redirection technique than any other malware family tracked in Q4 2012. One specific iFrame redirection family, called iFrameRef, increased fivefold in the fourth quarter of 2012 to become the number one malicious technique encountered by enterprises worldwide. iFrameRef was detected nearly 3.3 million times in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“People intuitively understand the importance of locking their front door to prevent their homes from being broken into. Computer security is no different. Surfing the Internet without up-to-date anti-virus is like leaving your front door open to criminals,” said Dr Kganyago.

SIRv14 explains some of the most prevalent threats facing consumers online:

* Think before you click:  Microsoft detected and removed malicious email attachments from almost three million computers in the fourth quarter of 2012. People encounter this type of threat when opening documents, such as a PDF or Word document, that have been maliciously crafted and sent to them in an email.  Antivirus can help to prevent infection from this type of attack.

* Bargain hunters beware: Keygen, a threat family commonly bundled with malware, was detected almost 7 million times in the fourth quarter of 2012.  People seeking free or discounted software, movies or games online increase the risk of encountering this type of threat Antivirus can help to protect against this.

In South Africa, SIRv14 showed that despite the benefits of anti-virus, many people do not realise they are unprotected.  There are number of reasons 4 out of 10 computers are unprotected, said Dr Kganyago:  A trial period has expired or the software is out of date; the antivirus software was disabled by the bad guys; and people may not realise the importance of anti-virus, so they do not install it.

To find out if they are using valid and up-to-date Antivirus, Microsoft recommends that people go to their system control panel to check their computer’s security settings. If they do not have Antivirus installed, they can download it from a trusted vendor. If you have Windows 8, then Microsoft’s Antivirus is already built into the system.

“Regardless of whether you use a free or paid for solution, the importance of Antivirus cannot be overstated,” said Kganyago. “By taking the proper measures to protect your computer, including the most basic step of installing Antivirus, people can dramatically reduce their risk of becoming a victim.”

Microsoft releases the SIR twice a year to inform the public about the most prevalent global threats so they can protect themselves and their organizations. SIRv14 includes data from the second half of 2012 and contains threat intelligence from over a billion computers worldwide.

The full Security Intelligence Report, volume 14, is available for free and can be downloaded here. You can also check out the Microsoft Security Blog and Microsoft Security Newsroom for more on the findings of this report.

Staff writer