Computer bugs tipped to strike half of HK firms

Complacence about installed anti-virus programs leave 60% of HK's SMEs oblivious to impending virus attacks.

Complacence about installed anti-virus programs leave 60% of HK's SMEs oblivious to impending virus attacks.

HONGKONG (SCMP)- At least half of Hong Kong's companies will have their computer systems attacked by 2003, but 60 per cent will be unaware of it, the Hong Kong Productivity Council has predicted. Council computer consultant Roy Ko Wai-tak said small to medium-sized companies - which account for more than 98 per cent of firms - were vulnerable to such attacks because owners failed to upgrade security systems often enough. They may be unaware of the presence of a virus and inadvertently spread it by sending e-mails.

The warning was based on a finding by the US-based Gartner Group this month.

Researchers said small and medium-sized firms that managed their own network security and used the Internet for more than just e-mails would experience widespread attacks by 2003. An attack could be a random virus or deliberate hacking.

Mr Ko said more than half of all companies would be at risk because earlier research by the council had found the general security level was lower than that of overseas firms.

Almost one-fifth of companies have fallen victim to computer viruses in the past year, and three per cent have suffered some other form of computer sabotage, according to a council survey released last month. The survey of 3,000 firms showed 76 per cent had basic security technology and only three per cent used advanced tools.

This compared unfavorably with many developed countries, where almost all firms had installed basic security technology, while more than half were using advanced tools.

Mr Ko believes about 60 per cent of local companies would be unaware of the attacks. He said local firms concentrated on upgrading computer models and programs to boost immediate business gains, rather than strengthening security systems.

"Many computer users think once they've installed an anti-virus program they will be free from attack for life. That's not true," he said.

"From time to time hackers will find new channels to attack computers. Most companies ignore the importance of their security system until they suffer severe financial loss due to the loss of computer data."

Computer users should upgrade security every week.

The president of the Hong Kong Chamber of Small and Medium Business, Allen Yung Chan-lung, believes 145,000 companies could fall victim to computer attacks by 2003.

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