A post on PCWorld’s blog today declares “One in Five PCs Infected With Rootkits.” This is based upon the declaration of a company called Prevx that these infections have been on the rise from October 1 to date. According to Wikipedia, a rootkit is “a set of programs designed to corrupt the legitimate control of an operating system by its operators.” As further explained by PCWorld:

“Rootkits are often ‘dropped’ or buried by other infections. They then modify a PC’s operating system to hide themselves from both the user and any security products installed on the computer. By so doing rootkits can allow criminals to remotely monitor, record, modify, steal and transfer data from the victim’s PC.”

The problem this creates is a false sense of security. You faithfully run your antivirus and antispyware software and think yourself safe, but you are not. As the blog post states,

“Some rootkits are undetectable by conventional antivirus and antispyware applications. A tech-savvy user may believe his or her computer is ‘clean’, and unwittingly pass on increasingly valuable personal and financial data.”

Never fear, says, Prevx, they have a free scanner called CSI (Computer Security Investigator) that you can download to see if your system is infected. The catch is, it will cost you $24.95 for the software to remove the malware it finds. This makes their public service more of a marketing ploy, but at least you don’t spend the money for something unless you need it.

Prevx’s study may not be anything more than an effort to raise awareness and sell software, but at least if the former is accomplished, some good can come of it. You should at least have the computers in your office scanned to see what turns up. With all the sensitive data we have on our machines, a “better safe than sorry” approach is always best.