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Netbooks may offer hackers private data gateway

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Netbook Web surfers beware. That low-cost netbook you’re using could be a high-speed gateway into your life, bank accounts, passwords and other personal data.

Netbooks have made headlines since their 2007 launch, making PCs accessible to millions of non-traditional users. But their cheap cost could also carry a steep price tag due to lax security that makes them easier prey for viruses and hackers.

“The Internet is full of dangers, regardless of what computer you are using,” said Sam Yen, greater China marketing manager at anti-virus software maker Symantec.

“But keeping in mind that the netbook is primarily used to surf the Internet, those dangers are possibly multiplied many-fold, especially if there is no anti-virus software installed in the machine.”

Price tags as low as $300 mean that netbooks often lack such standard gear as firewalls and other anti-virus software typically found in other computers, leaving them highly vulnerable to attacks.

“Frankly, netbook security is not there yet,” said Pranab Sarmah, an analyst at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

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