Australians underrate the risks of malware | ACMA

Australians underrate the risks of malware

Australian Communications and Media Authority research on malicious software (malware) released today indicates that nearly half of all adult Australians who use the internet for personal purposes—more than seven million people—do not believe they will be a victim.

And ten per cent of Australians who access the internet on home-based computers or laptops—equivalent to nearly 1.5 million people—do not have any protective software, while another eight per cent don’t regularly update their software.

'These alarming results indicate Australian internet users need to be more vigilant in protecting their computing devices from malware,' said the ACMA's Deputy Chairman and cyber security spokesman, Richard Bean.

'Malware is a real threat. It allows others to steal your personal identity information, including your login details for internet services like online banking. Malware can be used to get access to almost any content on your devices, including your online browsing history.

'While it is difficult to accurately assess the amount of malware in circulation, the ACMA is identifying and reporting record numbers of malware infections under its vital Australian Internet Security Initiative (AISI) program,’ he added.

Around 35,500 infected Australian IP addresses are currently being reported each day through the AISI. Many are infected with software such as the Zeus Trojan designed specifically to capture login details for online banking. 88 per cent of Australian internet users surveyed use the internet for online financial transactions.

‘There are three key things that internet users should do to secure their computer and help protect themselves from malware,’ said Richard Bean. ‘They are:

  • Install security software and update it regularly
  • Turn on automatic updates so all your software receives the latest fixes
  • Set strong passwords.’

More advice can be found at www.staysmartonline.gov.au.

The ACMA research report, Malware and harmful software: Consumer views on software threats and use of protections, is part of the ACMA’s ongoing program of research into key areas of the internet economy and emerging digital trends.

Internet service providers and other organisations that participate in AISI and the number of malware incidents reported each day are available on the link above. An infographic summarising the report’s findings is also available.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 72/2013 - 2 October

Backgrounder

The Malware and harmful software—Consumer views on software threats and use of protections research is part of the ACMA’s research program, researchacma, which is concerned with identifying communications and media matters of continuing significance to markets, society and government.

This research uses qualitative and quantitative methods, including a national survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research which explored the views of 1,500 Australian consumers on:

  • the likelihood of risks to their internet-enabled computers from malware infections
  • the protections they take to protect home-based computers from harmful software, and the extent to which key protections are not taken
  • their knowledge of whether mobile devices are protected
  • their perceptions about who is responsible for protecting personal computers against the risks posed by malware, and the extent to which such risks are perceived as a personal responsibility or shared with others such as Internet Service Providers, software suppliers and government

The Malware and harmful software —Consumer views on software threats and use of protections research contributes to the ACMA’s research themes on safeguards and digital society, which is directed to identifying the potential regulatory settings and interventions that may assist citizens in protecting the security of their computers and digital data.

One safeguard instigated by the ACMA is the Australian Internet Security Initiative (AISI). Under this voluntary initiative, daily reports are provided to 134 internet providers identifying malicious software (malware) infections on their networks. Providers are expected to use the information to advise their customers they are infected and provide information to them on how to eradicate the malware. Through the removal of the malware, consumers are not only protecting their own digital data but helping to prevent their infected computing device causing harm to other internet users, as malware facilitates internet enabled crime.

The ACMA’s website contains further information on the AISI.

The ACMA has developed a researchacma overview that explains how external drivers, environmental pressures, the policy environment and internal business needs determine our annual research priorities. But at the heart of our strategic vision are five broad research areas that remain relatively constant:

  • market developments
  • media content and culture
  • digital society
  • safeguards
  • regulatory practice and design.

All the ACMA’s research publication can be found on our website.

Last updated: 11 September 2017