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Computer security: Parents, teenagers take risks online

Computer security survey found that more than half of all parents with infected computers had had their computer security violated more than once. A quarter of teens had visited adult sites, which often spread malicious software.

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Leah Beth Meray, of Ferndale, Mich., is photographed May 6, 2011, with her Facebook page, which was recently compromised by hackers in Nigeria. A new survey finds that parents and teens need to take computer security more seriously.

Regina H. Boone/MCT/Newscom/File

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NEW YORK – Big companies such as Citigroup and Sony have been the targets of major hacking attacks. Yet a new survey finds that regular people are also prime and often unsuspecting targets.

Parents and their teenage children regularly engage in risky online behavior, according to the survey of U.S. Internet users commissioned by computer security company GFI Software.

More than half of the parents whose home computers have been infected with a virus said this has happened more than once. And while 89 percent of parents said they have antivirus software on their computers, a quarter of them said they don't know if they update it. Without updates, antivirus software is useless against the latest malicious attacks.

Of the teens who responded, 24 percent said they have visited a website meant for adults. More than half who do so said they lied about their age to get into the sites. Such sites are often designed to spread malicious software, which can infect the computers of people who visit.

"Given the potential ramifications of improper Internet use today, it would seem to merit at least the same degree of educational vigilance as other lifestyle risk categories like sex, drugs and alcohol," the report said.

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