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The number of flaws in computer security products is rising sharply and threatens to become more of a problem than vulnerabilities in the products they are designed to protect, a study by Yankee Group out Monday warns.

In the 15-month period between January 2004 and March 2005, security vendors reported 77 separate vulnerabilities and the rate is going up. Based on current Trends, Yankee reckons the number of vulnerabilities for security products this year will top 2004 levels by as much as 50 per cent.

Exploits targeting flaws in security products have yet to prove much of a problem with the Witty worm, which spread using a security bug in ISS's desktop firewall product, the only mass exploit to date. But Yankee warns against any complacency on this score.

"Security researchers — whether they wear white, gray or black hats — are increasingly less interested in poking holes in desktop operating systems," said Andrew Jaquith, Yankee Group senior analyst in Security Solutions & Services. "A more fascinating and profitable area exists in finding vulnerabilities in the products meant to defend against the attacks themselves. It is time for the security vendors to stand up and make their own products more secure before they become preferred conduits for professionally designed malware."

Back in the day, PCs could be protected by just a decent firewall and anti-virus. But as newer threats, such as spyware and spam, have forced users to rely on a greater range of security products thereby increasing the potential that users might trip over security glitches in their defensive kit. Yankee Group urges vendors to further protect customers by comprehensive testing before product release, and by reviewing the entire code base for potentially dangerous functions. ®

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