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Ignorance is biggest cause of infection

Bill Goodwin
Lack of security awareness among staff is the biggest cause of virus infections in small businesses, a survey by the Institute of Directors and McAfee has revealed.

The survey of more than 1,200 small businesses found that 57% had suffered damage from virus attacks, and 50% of those attributed their problems to misuse of IT equipment by staff.

Businesses said staff downloading non-work-related applications, opening infected e-mails and deactivating security software posed the main risks to security.

Although 75% of companies had polices against downloading non-work-related material, 66% believed that staff had done so in breach of policy.

The most popular downloads were audio and video files, cited by 66% of firms, software (56%), instant messaging applications (52%) and peer-to-peer software (31%).

The practice places companies at risk from viruses which exploit peer-to-peer software and instant messaging to spread.

"Downloading software from the internet is a cardinal security sin for any user," said Sal Viveros, small business director at anti-virus supplier McAfee.

"The rules are simple and should be strongly enforced by the IT department - if it is not work-related, it shouldn't be on your PC."

The survey found that 75% of firms regarded viruses as the biggest threat to their business, although 8% identified data theft and 7% cited hacking as risks.

The majority of respondents had anti-virus and firewall systems in place on servers, desktops and gateways. Less than 25% had systems to stop hackers, and less than 50% used anti-spam filters.

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