Millions in China have no antivirus software, survey shows

The number of Chinese Internet users without security software rose in 2009

The massive number of Chinese Internet users running no antivirus software increased last year, a survey showed, even though online security risks continued to multiply in the country.

The percentage of Internet users in China with no security software was 4.4 percent last year, up from 3.9 percent the previous year, according to survey results released late Tuesday by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) and China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT).

CNNIC estimates that 384 million people in China used the Internet in the second half of last year. By that calculation, the number of people in the country surfing the Internet with no antivirus software was nearly 17 million, representing a huge pool of PCs that attackers could easily infect and use for malicious ends.

Other results from the survey also showed the size of online security problems in China. For instance, nearly half of Chinese Internet users own virtual property, such as items in an online game or virtual coins for use on a social-networking site, according to the survey. Among those people, 14.6 percent said they had experienced some loss of that property due to theft of login credentials.

Online games are among the most popular targets in China for attackers, who strip items such as armor from a stolen game account and then sell them to other players for real-world cash.

The report also said China's Internet users spent 15.3 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) on "service fees" in 2009 to clean up after cyberattacks, and that downloading free antivirus software was the most popular way for users to get virus protection. The report also called for more attention to mobile security risks, as more people in China are surfing the Internet on mobile phones usually not loaded with security software.

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