Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ok, there's something wrong here...

You may have seen this article about a survey McAfee conducted in conjuction with the National Cyber Security Alliance. In brief, they polled a few hundred random Americans and asked them about the security software they were using on their PCs, then followed up to see if the actual configuration matched what the user's thought. No surprise that they found only something like 50% of the people had up-to-date AV software, had turned on their firewall or were running any sort of anti-spyware software.

The numbers sounded reasonable in this article, but then I read the following sentence:

But when pollsters asked to remotely scan the respondents' 
computers, the story turned out to be very different.

Just who exactly would allow strangers to "remotely scan" their computers to verify their security settings? Hmm... Oh! I know! Perhaps the very people who are least likely to already practice good security measures!

Seriously, I'm no statistician or pollster, but this methodology sounds fishy to me. This sounds like a self-selected sample to me (the group of all people who lack enough basic security skills to properly secure their systems from strangers). I'd love to know if this was somehow accounted for in their methodology, but until then, I don't think these numbers are at all useful.

Update: 2007-10-02 13:34: BTW, I forgot to make my other point, and that is that the pollsters seem to have used exactly the same sort of techniques that we try to condition our users against, namely social engineering attacks. So that lends further credence to my belief that they probably ended up doing a survey of those who were already the worst at security.

2 comments:

Joe said...

Your link points to McAffee.com instead of McAfee.com. The former is one of those url-typo-spammer-owned-gimmick sites.

David Bianco said...

How embarrassing. Thanks for pointing that out!

You can probably tell that I'm not a McAfee user. It may just be the most-confusingly spelled security vendor. Ok, Symantec isn't really a word anyway, but at least it's easy to spell.