Cyber security organizations warned this week that computer users don’t need to connect to the Internet, download programs or open suspicious email attachments to get viruses. Digital infections are now coming straight from the factory. Plugging in an iPod or a printer may be enough to spread a factory-originated virus. Lax quality control in manufacturing plants appears to be the culprit. A virus can easily be “pre-installed” when a careless worker plugs an infected device into a factory test computer. For developing-country PC users, the Internet has never been the sole source of viruses. In fact, many computers are impaired or rendered completely unuseable by viruses spread through file transfers from discs and USB drives.
Recent field research by Vital Wave Consulting researchers in India affirmed that, even in school-based PC labs with no Internet connectivity, a significant amount of down-time is caused by software issues connected to rampant viruses. School systems in India that invest in technology are often unable to cope with debilitating viruses because the machines are running pirated or ineffective antivirus software. While new PCs come with preinstalled antivirus software, many schools have no easy way to update virus definitions or renew subscriptions.
The Indian government’s recent announcement of their intent to provide one computer for every two students in 100,000 public schools is another example of the increased commitment to ICT-in-education programs globally. Such rapid expansion, coupled with ever-increasing virus threats from the home, factory or (when available) the Internet, presents a compelling opportunity for software manufacturers. There is a demonstrable demand – even among the unconnected – for low-cost and easily updatable antivirus software. By working directly with vendors and maintenance providers, antivirus software providers could increase school uptime, see a healthy return on their emerging-market expansion efforts, and directly contribute to increased technology access for school children in developing countries worldwide.
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