Malware defenses questioned

A recent study confirms analysts’ assessments that businesses are making themselves vulnerable to financial loss and resource inefficiency through a lack of antivirus software and growing malware infestations.

Titled, “Unnecessary Expenditures, Unnecessary Risks: Trends and Opportunities in IT Policy Management”, the report was released in June by Toronto-based consultancy Softchoice. Softchoice performed a voluntary evaluation of 90,000 desktops from over 210 organizations as part of the report.

The company’s own Policy TechCheck, an IT consultation service which assesses environmental risks, was part of the survey process. The service quantifies the damage caused by unsafe practices such as missing antivirus software, unpracticed policies, and missing service packs.

All participating organizations were also asked to complete a survey. A comparison between the perceptions of their IT setting versus the reality of their technology environment followed as a final step. The results were a surprise for most companies, said Edwin Jansen, services manager for Softchoice, stating that many organizations had a false sense of safety about their company’s IT security.

“The view that many Canadian organizations take to security is rather rudimentary….There is a lack of awareness in terms of all different types of security exploits,” said David Senf, manager of software research for Toronto-based IT market research firm IDC Canada.

Companies lack the security information required to combat potential attacks on their IT resources, said Marc MacKinnon, Deloitte privacy and security services manager, noting that the SoftChoice survey results aren’t surprising.

The survey indicated that 49 per cent of PCs had moderate to severe infestations of adware, spyware and other malware. One in 16 corporate PCs had no antivirus software.

The problem with malware is that companies are taking a reactive approach, explained Dean Williams, Softchoice services consultant. Fear of reprimand from office heads and acceptance of slow computer startup times means undetected malware will continue to be a problem for businesses, he said.

“A contributing factor to malware is an immature attitude. It’s going to be addressed in the coming years, similar to viruses in the late 1990s,” Williams said.

In addition to malware, Senf warns that “script-kiddies” are climbing the ladder as one of the latest nuisances.

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