Washington: A triple combo of protective software on your computer foolproofs it against identity or password theft, snooping and malware installation, according to a criminology study.

Computer users “have a much better chance of not getting credit card number stolen if (they) have all three forms of protective software,” said Thomas Holt, associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.

The combo includes anti-virus software that detects and removes viruses and worms that can corrupt a computer, delete data and spread to other computers.

The other two softwares, anti-spyware and anti-adware are designed to protect against software that either self-installs stealthily or is installed by the user and enables information to be gathered covertly about a person’s Internet use, passwords and so on.

“When you think about anti-virus software protecting you, you might think about it keeping your files safe and not losing your music and photos,” said Holt, whose findings are based on a survey of more than 600 people, the journal Deviant Behaviour reports.

“The important thing we’re finding here is that it’s not just about protecting your files, but also about protecting you economically – about reducing your chances of being a victim of identity theft,” said Holt, who worked with Michael Turner, associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

About 15 percent of respondents said they had experienced computer-related identity theft in the past year. Males were more likely to be victims, Holt said, according to a Michigan University statement.

“We’re not sure what this might be a consequence of,” he said. “Is it that males are less careful about what they do online? Is it a difference in how they shop online or conduct online commerce?”

Those who engaged in “computer-related deviance” – such as downloading pirated music or pornographic images – were more likely to be victims of identity theft, the study found. This is a large risk for users because pirated movies and music may contain malware and place users at risk for harm.

Source: IANS