Volume seven of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv7) - part of Microsoft's  commitment to providing an unparalleled level of security intelligence to help keep individuals and organizations better informed and to maximize security investments - was released today and there are a couple of tidbits in the report that caught my attention that I thought I would pass on. As a reminder, the SIR is published by Microsoft twice per year and looks at the data and trends observed in the first and second halves of each calendar year.

The first thing that struck me while reading through the report is that for the first time, the SIR shares some high-level security best practices from countries that have consistently exhibited low malware infection. For example, Japan, Austria and Germany's infection rates remained relatively low during the first half of this year.

So how do these regions keep their customers and resources safe from cyber threats?  Japan's infection rates remain relatively low is due in large part to collaborations like the Cyber Clean Center. The Cyber Clean Center is a cooperative project between ISPs, major security vendors and Japanese government agencies aimed at educating users on how to keep their PCs infection free. Austria has implemented strict IT enforcement guidelines to lower piracy rates and this, along with strong ISP relationships and fast Internet lines, has helped ensure the ecosystem is kept up to date with security patches. Germany has also leveraged collaboration efforts with its CERT and ISP communities to help identify and raise awareness of botnet infections and, in some cases, quarantine infected computers.

The other thing that stood out to me was the graph below. This graph shows the effectiveness of automatic updating and shows what happened to the trojan downloader family Win32/Renos once Microsoft released a signature update for Windows Defender via Windows Update and Microsoft Update. Within three days, enough computers had received the new signature update to reduce the error reports from 1.2 million per day to less than 100,000 per day worldwide! To me this shows how important it is for users and organizations to utilize automatic updates to help prevent the spread of malware! 

The report also underscores some of the trends that we have seen from previous versions of the report: for example, the infection rate for Windows Vista is significantly lower than that of its predecessor, Windows XP. It also tells me that the higher the service pack levels of an OS, the lower the infection rate. Once again, these items help point out that you need to keep your software up-to-date. With Windows 7 now available it might be a good time to look at upgrading your OS!

Take a look at the full report at http://www.microsoft.com/sir and use the information to help protect yourself, your networks, and your users.