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Study Finds 'Alarming' Ignorance About Cybercrime

"Consumers' unsecured computers play a major role in helping cybercriminals conduct cybercrimes," the National Cyber Security Alliance warns.

At the RSA Conference on Wednesday, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reported that U.S. consumers don't understand botnets, networks of compromised computers that have become one of the major methods for attacking computer systems.

"Botnets continue to be an increasing threat to consumers and homeland security," said Ron Teixeira, executive director of the NCSA, in a statement. "Consumers' unsecured computers play a major role in helping cybercriminals conduct cybercrimes not only on the victim's computer, but also against others connected to the Internet."

The NCSA survey involved 2,249 online consumers between the ages of 18 and 65, polled by Harris Interactive.

The NCSA said its study indicates that Americans understand that their computers can be subverted, thereby degrading security for others.

Among the study's findings: 71% are not familiar with the term "botnet"; 59% believe it's unlikely that their computer could affect homeland security; 47% believe it's not possible for their computer to be commandeered by hackers; 51% have not changed their password in the past year; and 48% do not know how to protect themselves from cybercriminals.

Such findings should come as no surprise. Last October, a joint study conducted by McAfee and the NCSA found that almost half the consumers surveyed erroneously believed their computers were protected by antivirus software.

Moreover, the ongoing success of social engineering attacks demonstrates that people are easily fooled. And really, given the frequency with which studies exposing people's ignorance about all manner of things appear, it should be assumed that more education about everything is needed.

Teixeira considers it "alarming" that people don't know how to keep their computers secure.

That may well be cause for alarm, but it's worth noting that companies with highly paid IT professionals get hacked, too. That's at least as alarming, if not more so.

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