Security Experts:

Microsoft: You're 5.5 Times More Likely to Be Infected Without AV

Microsoft released new data today as part of its latest Security Intelligence Report volume 14 (SIRv14), which showed that 2.5 out of 10 computers on average do not use up-to-date Antivirus.

In a perfect world, everyone would have a fully-patched system with an up-to-date antivirus product installed, but that’s just unrealistic. But 75 percent of users at least having up to date antivirus actually sounds better than many would expect.

According to Microsoft, without antivirus, computers are 5.5 times more likely to be infected with malware.

"People intuitively understand the importance of locking their front doors to prevent their homes from being broken into. Computer security is no different. Surfing the Internet without up-to-date Antivirus is like leaving your front door open to criminals," said Tim Rains, director, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft. "With the release of this new research, Microsoft is urging people to make sure they have up-to-date Antivirus installed on their computers."

Microsoft said that in Q4 2012, it detected and removed malicious email attachments from almost 3 million computers.

Microsoft also said that it detected Keygens, software activation key generators that often carry malware, almost 7 million times in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“People seeking free or discounted software, movies or games online increase the risk of encountering this type of threat,” Microsoft said.

A user who downloads the package runs the key-generator utility to create a product key that will supposedly allow the software to be used illegally, Microsoft previously explained. In many cases, the distributed packages contain malware alongside - or instead of - the pirated software.

In volume 13 of Microsoft’s report, which was released in October 2012, Microsoft reported that Win32/Keygen was the most commonly reported threat family in the first half of 2012.

Microsoft’s latest security report follows recent research from AVG Technologies, which revealed a majority of game hacks and software freely available online contain malware.

AVG’s list included unpirated "cracked" games, keygens and thousands of other game hacks such as patches, cheats and trainers readily available online on unregulated torrent or file-sharing sites. 

Despite the benefits of Antivirus, many people do not realize they are at risk, Microsoft said, citing a number of reasons that so many remain unprotected:

• A trial period has expired or the software is out of date.

• The Antivirus was disabled by malware.

• People may not realize the importance of Antivirus so they do not install it.

"Regardless of whether you use a free or paid-for solution, the importance of Antivirus cannot be overstated," Rains said. "By taking the proper measures to protect your computer, including the most basic step of installing Antivirus, you can dramatically reduce your risk of becoming a victim.”

While the efficacy of endpoint antivirus products in the enteprise has been under heated debate recently, it's clearly still a necessary defense measure for most.

The full version of Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report can be found here.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the treat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences.