One out of every six PCs either has no security software installed, or the security software subscription has expired, according to a recent study by security software vendor McAfee.
McAfee analyzed data from voluntary scans of between 27 million to 28 million computers a month to determine the level of security on PCs being used to access the Internet. Researchers found that 17 percent of PCs had either no security software installed or had security software that had expired, according to the company, which is owned by chip making giant Intel.
The study hit on PCs in 24 countries, and the United States did not fare well, landing as the fifth least protected country, McAfee found.
"The freedom to browse the Internet comes with the added risk of unwanted exposure, and cyber-criminals are preying on unsuspecting victims," Steve Petracca, senior vice president and general manager of consumer, small business and mobile at McAfee, said in a statement. "With the increasing number of global cyber-attacks affecting consumers, it is critical that the 17 percent of consumers that are unprotected update their virus protection before it's too late."
Consumers around the world said that 27 percent of their digital files would be "impossible to restore" at all if lost and not backed up properly, and that those digital files had an average value of $10,014, according to McAfee.
Security experts over the years have warned that unprotected PCs not only pose risks to the users of those systems, but also to others around the globe if those unprotected computers are compromised and used in a botnet to attack other PCs. The recent Flashback malware attack that infected more than 600,000 Macsmore than 1 percent of all the Macs in use worldwideillustrates the problem. Mac users had come to believe that the Mac OS X operating system on their computers essentially was invulnerable to attacks, and many may not have secured their Macs as well as they could have, security experts said.
However, security researchers from such places as Symantec and Kaspersky Lab warned that as the popularity of the Apple systems increases, so will attention from hackers. In an April 6 blog post, Forrester analyst David Johnson said Mac users need to understand that their systems are open to threats.
Of course, the Mac is vulnerable, Johnson wrote. Every Internet-connected device is vulnerable.
In the United States, 19.32 percent of Americans are browsing the Internet with no protection. Breaking that down, 12.25 percent of U.S. consumers have no security protection installed, while 7.07 percent have security software that is installed but has been disabled, such as through expired licenses.
At the top of the secure list was Finland, with 9.7 percent of PCs lacking security protection, McAfee said.
Singapore was at the bottom, with 21.75 percent of consumer PCs unprotected. The country also had the highest percentage of usersat 11.75 percentwith security software installed but disabled.
Spain had the highest percentage of PCs that lacked any basic security protection. In that country, 16.33 percent of PCs were without any kind of security software installed, according to McAfee.