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25 October 2004

Welcome to the Brave, New World

Security for Internet Users Deemed Weak
Mon Oct 25,10:00 AM ET Technology - AP
By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer



WASHINGTON - Internet users at home are not nearly as safe online as they believe, according to a nationwide inspection by researchers. They found most consumers have no firewall protection, outdated antivirus software and dozens of spyware programs secretly running on their computers. One beleaguered home user in the government-backed study had more than 1,000 spyware programs running on his sluggish computer when researchers examined it. Bill Mines, a personal trainer in South Riding, Va., did not fare much better. His family's 3-year-old Dell computer was found infected with viruses and more than 600 pieces of spyware surreptitiously monitoring his online activities. "I was blown away," Mines said. "I had a lot of viruses and other things I didn't know about. I had no idea things like this could happen." The Internet always has had its share of risky neighborhoods and dark alleys. But with increasingly sophisticated threats from hackers, viruses, spam e-mails and spyware, trouble is finding computer users no matter how cautiously they roam online.

The technology industry is feeling the pain, too. Spurred by the high costs of support calls from irritated customers — and fearful that frustrated consumers will stop buying new products — Internet providers, software companies and computer-makers are making efforts to increase awareness of threats and provide customers with new tools to protect themselves. Still, many computer users appear remarkably unprepared for the dangers they face. The study being released Monday by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 77 percent of 326 adults in 12 states assured researchers in a telephone poll they were safe from online threats. Nearly as many people felt confident they were already protected specifically from viruses and hackers. When experts visited those same homes to examine computers, they found two-thirds of adults using antivirus software that was not updated in at least seven days.

Two-thirds of the computer users also were not using any type of protective firewall program, and spyware was found on the computers of 80 percent of those in the study.

(Associated Press)

The Internet Jungle is getting wilder all the time. Where will it end?

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