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Thoughts on the recent report that 80% of Windows machines on the internet are spyware infected, why, and what needs to be done.
Hello everyone, this is Leo Notenboom of Ask Leo, on the internet at askleo.info, with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.
I recently heard that some study showed that over 80% of Windows computers on the internet were infected with some form of spyware or virus. That's 4 out of every 5 computers. That's both amazing and scary.
Now, before the anti-Windows folks barrage me with a flood of "that's why everyone should switch to Linux or Mac", I'll tell you that I'm convinced that if Linux, for example, had the market share Windows does, we'd be talking about 4 our of 5 Linux machines being infected. Or 4 out of 5 Macs, if Macintosh ruled the earth. There are simply vulnerabilities in all software.
The fact is Windows has overwhelming market share, and with it comes the big bullseye that all the virus and spyware writers are aiming for.
In my opinion the real cause that infections are so widespread, is simply that the vast majority of computer users don't run anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and most of those that do, do a poor job of keeping it up to date. Face it, running anti-spyware software that's six months out of date is pretty close to not running any at all.
Don't get me wrong ... I'm not blaming the user. In an ideal world the users should never have to care about this stuff. Computers should just work.
So, what's the solution?
For now: education. The computer literate need to spread the gospel about the importance of firewalls, malware scanning, and keeping the scanners and operating system up to date.
The future, I believe, looks a lot like Windows Automatic Updates and the new Windows Anti-Spyware tool. Scanning, and updating, should by default happen transparently and without thinking. They should be included in, dare I say it, the operating system, and like the operating system, updates should be free. Disable it at your own risk, if you're paranoid, but the less we expect the average computer user to have to do, the more successful he or she will be at doing it.
But for now: preach - Anti Virus, Anti Spyware, Firewalls, Updates.
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