In an experiment designed to underscore how vulnerable household computers are to security threats, NetSafe and IBM uncovered weaknesses in user behaviour.
Held to market International Computer Security day, four New Zealanders ranging from a teenage boy to a senior citizen went about online day-to-day tasks on poorly secured computers. The first attempt at intrusion happened within the first two minutes and the first computer was unusable after one hour and 40 minutes.
NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker says the results illustrate how important computer security is. “From this experiment we’ve seen just how quickly computers are attacked, and how the activity one undertakers online increases or decreases your computer’s security. We hope that New Zealanders will look at the experiment and take steps to make their computer a hard target for online criminals.”
As soon as the computers were connected to the internet they were probed for vulnerabilities and directly attacked. They were then bombarded with attempts to upload viruses and spyware (malware) – some of which were successful.
IBM security specialist John Martin says the computers had no antivirus or firewall software but the participants went online as if they were bulletproof. “Our computers are not at fault here, we are the ones downloading and storing this stuff without checking to see if we have the appropriate security,” he says.