Data breaches resulting in the loss of personal data have almost halved this year compared to 2009 figures, according to Microsoft.
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While theft, loss of equipment and reckless data disposal still account for the lion's share of data breaches, total incidents have fallen by some 46 per cent in the first half of 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to a botnet report released today by Microsoft.
Microsoft Australia chief security advisor Stuart Strathdee said that the swing is indicative of a change in consumer security awareness.
"The positive results show that consumers are becoming more aware of computer security and are taking steps to protect themselves against cyber criminals," Strathdee said in a statement.
"The problem of cyber crime requires creativity, innovative thinking and collaboration from industry, governments, lawmakers and law enforcers."
Yet in the same report, Microsoft said it erased botnet infections from some 6.5 million computers globally using its Malicious Software Removal Tool, double that of the same time last year. Of these, the company erased infections on 139,479 computers in Australia this year, compared to 4.3 million in the US.
Botnets are led by central command and control servers that can exploit the resources of computers infected with specific types of malware. They are often blamed for data loss, spam and other cyber attacks.
In September, the Australian Communications and Media Authority reported it had detected some 30,000 infected computers each day , which were part of botnets operating in Australia.
Microsoft's botnet distribution map(Credit: Microsoft)
The most prolific botnet family in Australia is Win32/Alureon, which accounts for about a quarter of known botnets, ahead of the Win32/Rimecud botnet.
A separate April report by the Ponemon Institute into 16 Australian organisations revealed the average corporate data breach costs $2 million, or $123 per lost record. It blamed hacking and botnets for the cause of most data breaches, and said that the $2 million worth of costs came from lost business and customer churn.