Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computer security: Reducing risks of malware infections

Date:
December 16, 2013
Source:
Polytechnique Montréal
Summary:
Installing computer security software, updating applications regularly and making sure not to open emails from unknown senders are just a few examples of ways to reduce the risk of infection by malicious software, or "malware". However, even the most security-conscious users are open to attack through unknown vulnerabilities, and even the best security mechanisms can be circumvented as a result of poor user choices.

Installing computer security software, updating applications regularly and making sure not to open emails from unknown senders are just a few examples of ways to reduce the risk of infection by malicious software, or "malware." However, even the most security-conscious users are open to attack through unknown vulnerabilities, and even the best security mechanisms can be circumvented as a result of poor user choices.

"The reality is that successful malware attacks depend on both technological and human factors," says Professor José Fernandez. "Although there has been significant research on the technical aspects, there has been much less on human behaviour and how it affects malware and defence measures. As a result, no one at the present time can really say how important these factors are. For example, are users who are older and less computer-savvy more open to infection?" It is therefore necessary to take a closer look at the impact that both technological and human factors have on the success or failure of protective mechanisms.

To answer this type of question, Prof. Fernandez and his team drew inspiration from the clinical trial method to design the first-ever study applied to computer security. In a fashion similar to medical studies that evaluate the effectiveness of a particular treatment, their experiment was aimed at assessing the performance of anti-virus software and the likelihood that participants' computers would become infected with malware. The four-month study involved 50 subjects who agreed to use laptops that were instrumented to monitor possible infections and gather data on user behaviour. "Analyzing the data allowed us not only to identify which users were most at risk, based on their characteristics and behaviour, but also to measure the effectiveness of various protective measures," says Polytechnique student Fanny Lalonde Lévesque, who is writing her master's thesis on this project.

This pilot study provided some very interesting results on the effectiveness of computer defences and the risk factors for infection. For example, 38% of the users' computers were exposed to malware and 20% were infected, despite the fact that they were all protected by the same anti-virus product, which was updated regularly. With regard to the users themselves, there did not seem to be any significant difference in exposure rates between men and women. In addition, the most technically sophisticated users turned out to be the group most at risk… This result may seem counter-intuitive, as it contradicts the opinion of some computer experts who argue that people should have a kind of "Internet license" before going online. "The results of this study provide some intriguing insights. Are these 'expert' users at higher risk because of a false sense of security, or because they are naturally curious and therefore more risk-tolerant? Further research is needed to understand the causes of this phenomenon, so that we can better educate and raise awareness among users," says Professor Fernandez. In the future, this type of study will help provide scientific data to support decision-making on security management, education, regulation and even computer security insurance. A second phase, which will involve hundreds of users over a period of several months, is already being prepared.

The initial results of this experiment were presented at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS), which took place November in 2013 in Berlin, Germany.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Polytechnique Montréal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Polytechnique Montréal. "Computer security: Reducing risks of malware infections." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142931.htm>.
Polytechnique Montréal. (2013, December 16). Computer security: Reducing risks of malware infections. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142931.htm
Polytechnique Montréal. "Computer security: Reducing risks of malware infections." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142931.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Aereo Takes on Broadcast TV Titans in Supreme Court Today

Aereo Takes on Broadcast TV Titans in Supreme Court Today

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — Aereo heads to the Supreme Court today to fight for its right to stream broadcast TV over the Internet -- against broadcasters who say the start-up infringes upon copyright law. TheStreet Deputy Managing Editor Leon Lazaroff explains the importance of the case in the TV industry and details what the outcome of it could mean for broadcasters and for cloud storage services -- as Aereo allows its subscribers to not just watch live TV shows but also store content to a DVR in the cloud. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — The light-field photography engineers at Lytro unveiled their next innovation: a professional DSLR-like camera called "Illum." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins