PEBKAC - Time to Get Serious About Online Safety
Iain Laskey argues there is still some way to go when educating people about safe computing
I recently read an piece on ars technica which showed some interesting statistics on the extent or lack thereof of people's awareness and care when managing the risks of being online. Whilst 98% of people surveyed said it was important to be secure and keep your software up to date, the number that actually did was rather lower. It was also interesting to compare the percentages of people who said they did something as opposed to those who actually did. For instance, 70% claimed to have anti-spyware installed when in reality only 55% did. I won't go in to too much detail here - you can follow the link yourself. However, what really stuck out was the lack of knowledge about the subject. Clearly, people had an idea of what they should be doing but in reality were confused about the difference between anti-virus, anti-spyware and so on. PEBKAC? Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair - it's not so much the lack of tools but how responsible the users can be.
I could go on a rant about how PCs are sold these days as if they were a fridge or some other easy-to-use appliance when in actuality, they do come with a certain level of competence being required of the user. With new threats appearing daily, whose responsibility is it? Yes, one could argue Microsoft et al should build tougher operating systems but they all have weaknesses, Linux and Mac included. Perhaps a full suite of tools should be bundled with each PC - anti-virus, anti-apyware, firewall, anti-spam and anti-phishing? Microsoft would end up in court pretty quickly on yet more anti-trust allegations if this were true so perhaps the PC manufacturers are to blame - they should ensure every PC they sell is fully kitted up.
The buck stops with the user though. You really need to ensure you have all the tools needed to keep your PC safe from the various threats that exist and the smarts to keep them up to date and used correctly. That last bit is vital - it's no use buying an anti-virus package then not letting it update its virus definitions as its ability to spot new threats will be badly impaired.
So the only real option for now is for the IT industry to keep on about what the users should be doing, should be aware of and their responsibility to other users such as not forwarding those funny emails (with free trojan!) to all their friends as a matter of course. Rather than repeat all that advice again here, here are some of our previous pieces that should help fill in some of the gaps. Work your way through these and you should be far better equipped to cope with all the nasties out there.
Finally, if you pop over to our Downloads page, you can find links to some quality software such as AVG Anti-virus, NetNanny, Mailwasher Pro and ZoneAlarm which can help in the fight. Good luck!