The itp.net Trend Micro ME Security Survey results

The itp.net Trend Micro Middle East Security Survey found some alarming trends among end users in the region

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  November 3, 2008

The recent itp.net Trend Micro Middle East Security Survey showed some alarming trends among users in the region - Middle East users are under almost continuous attack from spam and security threats, and while awareness of traditional threats is quite high and users do take steps to protect themselves, they still show some risky behaviour with their web use.

500 people across the region took part in the survey, with a majority of the responses coming from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The survey covered users with access to email and internet connection at work, with 56% using a desktop PC most often, compared to 43% using laptops. One third of respondents were from companies with less than 250 staff, one third from companies with over 2500 staff and the remaining third in the middle.

Both desktop and laptop users reported exposure to web threats in the past three months including spam (80%), spyware (23.2%), viruses/worms (31.6%) trojans (20%), phishing (3.4%) and pharming (1%).

Nearly one quarter - reported that they had suffered some sort of negative effects due to online threats, including slowdown in performance, the need to reformat, financial cost of repairs, damaged records and loss of productivity, time and bandwidth connection.

The risks involved in web threats are numerous but 74% cited loss of personal information as their main concern, followed by loss of corporate information (69%) and violation of privacy (67%). Interestingly, nearly 66% feared web threats would result in identity theft.

People in the Middle East have fairly sound knowledge of security threats such as spam, viruses, worms and Trojan, but only about 18% have heard of rootkits - a set of tools that allows hackers to gain access to key root functions on a server.

In terms of stealing information online, 65% said they were aware of phishing but only 15.8% admitted to knowing about pharming. Phishing typically involves fraudulent emails that direct unsuspecting users to fake websites, while pharming tampers with the domain server so that traffic to a website is directed to a different site altogether, even though the browser continues to display the desired web address.

Despite the awareness, some users still take risks with company laptops that could contain sensitive data. More than 38% admit to going online using their company laptops from hotels, while 31% used connections at coffee shops and other public hotspots. Only 19% said they never used a company laptop to connect to the internet outside of the office.

While mobile connectivity is increasingly seen as essential, its not without risk. When connecting to a public WiFi connection, users are instantly exposed to the risk of trojans, spyware and keyloggers that can track keystrokes. Hackers can easily create a hotspot with an apparently legitimate name to dupe web surfers and collect user names, passwords and even credit card numbers.

Strong confidence in the level of IT protection at work was evident based on the survey results, with nearly 72% rating their company IT security as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’. This confidence leads users to engage in activities not related to their job when connected to their company network.

Nearly 82% checked their personal email when in the office, 73% browsed websites unrelated to their work, nearly 55% engaged in personal online banking, 41% downloaded executable files such as software and updates, 39% used instant messaging and about 34% visited social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

All these activities pose risks and organizations need to have adequate protection in place to avoid falling victim to spyware, trojans, viruses and other web threats.

Due to the high incidence of online security threats, many are taking up arms to protect themselves online. 82% have installed updated security software on their home computer and 70% are paying more attention to incoming e-mails to ensure the sender identity, subject matter and attachments are genuine and safe. Additionally, more than a quarter of those surveyed said they are researching internet security issues in an effort to stay more informed of the dangers

Reflecting how seriously people in the Middle East consider web threats, only 2% said they were doing nothing to protect themselves online.

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