No one is immune from malware, viruses, worms and the myriad other threats to computer security. As fast as security software firms find and patch a vulnerability, someone, somewhere, finds and exploits another. It’s the kind of game that seems to have reached a point of equilibrium, with the bad guys forever just one step ahead of the good guys.
But judging by the wide disparities in virus infection rates around the world, there is something you can do to stay ahead. According to Microsoft Corp., which tracks some 600 million computers around the world that use its systems, Canada has among the lowest virus infection rates anywhere in the world.
According to a report in The Province, Microsoft says that in the last three months of last year, under 14 per cent of Canadian computers running Microsoft operating systems reported attacks by malicious software. In some countries, such as India and Vietnam, half of all computers are attacked by viruses, worms and other programs. The global average for the last quarter of 2013 was around 22 per cent.
In that time only one per cent of Canadian systems running Microsoft were actually infected, compared with 1.8 per cent globally.
“Canada is actually doing quite well,” said Tim Rains, director of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft. “The country has a lower encounter rate than the world wide average . . . and the infection rates are lower than the world wide average.” Rains was speaking at Microsoft’s yearly “Trustworthy Computing International Media Campus Tour” at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington last week.
Microsoft took advantage of the occasion to say that it has cut the vulnerabilities in its software by 70 per cent point between 2010 and 2013. However the number of computers that were infected by malicious code tripled in the last quarter of last year.
Today, operating systems are much tougher to crack than they used to be, Rains said. This has prompted hackers to focus on the end users, in a social engineering strategy that dupes them into downloading malicious programs and visit hostile web sites. Programs like “Rotbrow” and “Brantall” have become huge threats by adopting this approach. In the third quarter of last year they were found on 5.8 computers running Windows out of every 1000 – in the following quarter that jumped to 17 out of 1000.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) predicts that by 2025 there will be more than 4.7 billion Internet users around the globe, three-quarters of whom will come from less developed parts of the world, such as China, India and Latin America.