First published: 31st July 2009
A study performed by Techaisle.com and widely publicised by Intel has found that PCs older than 3 years have greater maintenance and support costs, including a higher number of virus incidents. Not surprisingly, Intel is using the report to promote PC sales, in a blog posting, Intel spokesperson Scott Smith says, "A new PC can have other benefits – reduced downtime from viruses".
This has important implications, it claims there is a casual link between buying a new PC and reducing virus incidents. If the claim is true, it could revolutionise the Anti-Virus industry. Perhaps we can buy a new PC every week and stop paying for anti-virus software. Or perhaps we can study what it is about buying a new PC that reduces virus incidents, and get the same effect in a different way.
Examining the study report, the picture becomes clearer. The study looked at two categories of businesses, small (<100 employees) and medium (>=100 employees). The figure used for demonstrating the higher number of virus incidents is described in the report as, "Email borne virus attacks", but there are other malware categories, these are the figures for the number of security incidents:
|Incident||Small Buisnesses||Medium Businesses|
|PCs>3yrs old||PCs<3yrs old||PCs>3yrs old||PCs<3yrs old|
|Email borne virus attacks||3.2||2.6||5.3||2.7|
|Denial of service/phishing attacks||1.7||1.6||2.3||1.3|
|Viruses resulting from visiting websites||1.6||2.1||2.6||1.8|
|Adware and spyware infections||1.4||1.2||2.3||1.7|
|Theft of data by others||1.2||1.0||0.0||1.0|
|Theft of data by employees||1.0||1.0||0.0||1.4|
|PC downtime resulting from network intrusions (hacking)||1.0||1.2||1.0||1.3|
|Theft of PCs (eg: at airports)||1.0||1.1||0.0||1.4|
So, the number of security incidents is still higher for the older PCs, but the difference is less dramatic than the 28-58% change for email borne virus attacks. What might the causes of the difference in malware incidents? Here are some guesses, with speculation by our Chief Consultant, Allan Dyer:
- New hardware is more secure. Highly Unlikely - malware is a software issue.
- New hardware comes with new software. Likely. But why is new software significant?
- New software is more secure. Debatable.
- Less malware exists for new software. Possible. Some malware is dependant on particular software versions, there will have been less time for development on new software, and malware authors tend to target mainstream versions, new software might be less common and therefore less targetted.
- New software often has bundled 1 year anti-virus. Possible. This would suggest that some companies are not renewing or replacing the bundled solutions when they expire.
- Regular hardware replacement is an indicator for strong PC management, including good security measures. Likely. In this case, companies are providing resources to maximise the benefits from their IT systems, and this manifests as both regular PC replacement, and strong malware protection. If this is the case, then companies could benefit from reduced security incidents by strengthening malware protection instead of buying new PCs, but Intel might not want to emphasise that.
Further study is required before we can safely move to a "PC a week" regime.