Computer security in Hong Kong lags behind Japan

Study finds that 25 out of every 1,000 of the city's computers were infected with a virus last year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 4:29am

Computers in Hong Kong are more than twice as vulnerable to cyberattacks than those in Japan because Hongkongers lack "a sense of cybersecurity", a computer security company said yesterday.

A study by Finnish company F-Secure found that 25 out of every 1,000 of the city's computers were infected with a virus last year, making the city the third-most vulnerable among six Asian locations studied.

India topped the vulnerability list with 28 out of 1,000 computers infected, followed by mainland China with 27.

Hong Kong placed third, followed by Taiwan with 20, Malaysia with 14 and Japan with 12.

When a virus invades a computer, it can steal financial and personal data, and send them to its mastermind, F-Secure's security adviser Goh Su Gim said.

Hongkongers' weak "sense of cybersecurity" meant they did not install antivirus software as widely as others or update their Java software frequently, he said.

"In many cases, the viruses enter the computers through Java," Goh said.

In many cases, the viruses enter the computers through Java

Of the computers infected in Hong Kong, 73 per cent were hit through Java, compared with 76 per cent in Japan and 65 per cent in Malaysia, he said.

Java is a programming language that belongs to Oracle Corporation, which issues periodic security updates for the software.

It enables programmers to write programs using just one set of code that will run on virtually any type of computer and operating system, including Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and Linux, all of which are widely used.

It is installed in internet browsers to access web content, and a computer can be infected if a user browses a website contaminated with a virus.

To prevent theft of personal information, Hongkongers should install antivirus software and update their Java program constantly, Goh said. "And remember to switch off Java if you don't need it," he said.

The city's government has recently advised internet users to stop using Java, or use it only on trusted websites.

The suggestion came after the US Department of Homeland Security advised users to disable Java in their web browsers because hackers had exploited a weakness in it to launch cyberattacks. Oracle has since issued a security update for its software.

Meanwhile, the number of Hongkongers seeking help for security intrusions increased last year, according to the Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre. The centre's senior consultant, Leung Siu-cheong, said 1,050 computer users sought help from the centre last year, up from 810 in 2011.