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Virus poll shows readers are vulnerable

Half of readers only update antivirus software weekly

In our recent reader poll asking how often you update your antivirus and security software you gave a chilling reply — only one in five voters said they updated their software daily.

According to one antivirus expert, daily updates are essential to a healthy system. But he added that times have moved on from the days when simple regular updates will save you from virus exposure.

In our poll PC Advisor readers showed a healthy scepticism when it comes to kneejerk reactions — just 3.4 percent of you said you only updated when a virus gets publicity. Nearly half of you (45.2 percent) said you updated your software once a week.

Our poll garnered 2,248 votes, a good sample, and showed some other shocking results. Almost one in 10(9.2 percent) voters don't use any antivirus software at all, while 18.7 percent of voters only update monthly.

Andre Post, senior researcher at Symantec's security response centre, says not only are weekly updates not enough, but viruses are now so advanced it's vital to constantly update your software with the latest security patches to ensure your information isn't wiped out.

"Social engineering, wrapping email attachments in attractive packaging, can be very important," explained Post. "But now it's the 'blended threat' — just opening an email and reading its contents can allow the worm to work."

Post says this blended threat, where a worm makes use of 'hacker tactics' to exploit software vulnerabilities as well as social engineering and simple virus coding, is far more dangerous than previous threats.

"Last year our motto was 'update, update, update' but this year the new message is 'patch, patch, patch'," said Post. "Patch security vulnerabilities for your software as often as possible."

Microsoft, for example, has released numerous patches for its operating systems and 'productivity software', but many people do not use them. Post says the automated updating system inside the Windows XP operating system should help solve this, but he urged readers to set their antivirus software to update itself daily or on startup, whichever is the more frequent.

"When there's no specific outbreak we provide updates on a weekly basis," said Post. "But often we post intermediately at times such as the discovery of a new worm. It is very important to check on a daily basis to make sure there are antivirus updates because of the frequency of viruses.

"In the old days updating once a month was sufficient, but right now when something's been disscovered it could be across the world by tomorrow."

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