PC vulnerability, Operating System and Country Differences

6th June 2013

We are all frequently urged to protect our PCs against Malware but it is not always easy to quantify the benefits of doing so. After all, if I have no infections on my PC, is it because of the software I have installed or is it just that there was no malware threat. Fortunately some recent research can quantify some of the differences.

A study by Microsoft used data from over a billion systems worldwide and showed that systems that do not have up-to-date Anti-Virus protection are 5.5 times more likely to be infected with malware than systems that are protected. This means that 270 million systems worldwide did not have up-to-date AV installed in the second half of 2012. Remarkable given that reasonably effective software is available for free.

There are other clear lessons that emerge from this analysis. Windows 7 is more secure than Windows Vista and this is much more secure than Windows XP. 64-bit systems are more secure than 32 bit systems. So if you are still running XP – whether in your office or at home – it's time to move on. Windows 8 seems more secure still but this is possibly distorted by the fact that this is relatively new OS and fewer attacks are being designed against it. So XP machines running SP3 had an infection rate of 4.2 per thousand, whilst Windows 7 64 bit was at 1.2 – unprotected XP machines were at 15.6. So there is an enormous difference between protected and unprotected machines, and different OS offer different levels of protection too.

There are huge differences between countries with Pakistan and Georgia both standing out with around 100 out of every 1000 unprotected PCs being infected. Rates of protection and infection vary enormously from country to country and so business travellers should be very aware of these differences and ensure that they are protecting their PCs accordingly.

Two key things emerge:

1. Ensure that up to data AV protection is installed on all devices, at home and at work;

2. If you are running XP, it is time to move on to a more secure OS.

You can read more about Microsoft's findings at http://bit.ly/18vsHsR