Say what you will, the biggest vulnerability facing computer users today is ignorance. I don't mean ignorance in that they're stupid. I mean that a large number are completely clueless about what it takes to protect their computers from compromise.

Despite stepped-up law enforcement and better security software, threats from cybercriminals remain potent, according to the 2007 Consumer Reports' State of the Net survey. The lone-wolf geek you imagine hunched over a computer in his basement isn't the only one out to steal your identity on the Internet. According to CR, cybercriminals increasingly operate in an elaborately networked underworld of websites and chat rooms, where they sell one another stolen account numbers, tools for making credit cards, scanners to pick up card numbers and PINs from ATMs and viruses and other malicious software. Findings from CR's fourth annual survey of online threats include the following:
  • Your chances of becoming a cybervictim are about one in four slightly less than last year because a few problems appear to be easing, though significant threats remain.
  • Consumers are still falling prey to phishing scams, in which bogus e-mails and websites ask them to disclose information about their financial accounts. The number who submitted personal information in such scams remained constant since last year, at about 8 percent of respondents.
  • Thirty-eight percent reported a virus infection in the past two years, and 34 percent reported a spyware infection in the past six months. Based on projections from this survey, virus infections prompted 1.8 million households to replace PCs in the past two years and spyware infections prompted 850,000 to replace machines in the past six months.
  • Defenses are still down. Seventeen percent of respondents didn't have antivirus software installed; 33 percent didn't use software to block or remove spyware. Consumer Reports believes that 3.7 million U.S. households with broadband still lack a firewall, which keeps out hackers.


Source: Cybercrimes spreading like viruses, Consumer Reports,, 4 November 2007 As I've written so many times in the past, it isn't just the potential personal financial or other losses at issue here. It is also the fact that these systems are used as launching platforms against bigger and more lucrative targets. Hmmm... maybe we should require taking a test to get a license for computer use like we do before you can drive.