Daily Archives: 2012-01-12

Beware of cybercrime data memes

Last year when I wrote a paper about mitigating malware I needed some figures on the percent of machines infected with malware. There are a range of figures, mainly below 10%, but one of the highest was 25%.

I looked into why this occurred and wrote it up in footnote #9 (yes, it’s a paper with a lot of footnotes!). My explanation was:

The 2008 OECD report on Malware [14] contained the sentence “Furthermore, it is estimated that 59 million users in the US have spyware or other types of malware on their computers.” News outlets picked up on this, e.g. The Sydney Morning Herald [20] who divided the 59 million figure into the US population, and then concluded that around a quarter of US computers were infected (assuming that each person owned one computer). The OECD published a correction in the online copy of the report a few days later. They were actually quoting PEW Internet research on adware/spyware (which is a subtly different threat) from 2005 (which was a while earlier than 2008). The sentence should have read “After hearing descriptions of ‘spyware’ and ‘adware’, 43% of internet users, or about 59 million American adults, say they have had one of these programs on their home computer.” Of such errors in understanding the meaning of data is misinformation made.

We may be about to have a similar thing happen with Facebook account compromises.
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