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At the start of this year it wasn’t obvious just how important security was going to be. According to some reports, 80 per cent of Windows PCs now have some sort of “spyware” or “adware” ­ almost certainly unwanted ­ on board. Although my predictions for the year just passed (which you can re-read at http://www.charlesarthur.com/predict2004.html) have been largely borne out (of 18 predictions, only one is definitely wrong and five “unclear”), the security issue ­ while important ­ took on a key role in 2004. So what’s ahead for 2005?

The inexorable rise of spyware and adware, plus the explosion of “Trojan diallers” which stole more than £5 million from more than 50,000 Britons earlier this year, should have made everyone aware that your computer is far less safe when online than you ever thought.

Microsoft did acknowledge this with its introduction, in September, of “Service Pack 2” for Windows XP, which bolstered the defences of Internet Explorer, which increasingly looks like the Achilles heel of the whole operating system. But that isn’t a huge help to half of the world’s Windows users, who use earlier versions than XP. Worse, hackers are moving towards “zero-day” attacks on Windows, whereby if a flaw is announced, a virus or worm pops up within 24 hours to exploit it ­ faster than many people run their updates. This trend will, if anything, get worse.

The coming year will see lots of promise on the home front ­ it could even be the year when we finally work out if we really do want our TV to talk to our PC.

So here are my forecasts:

And how can you best survive the coming year?

I make that 21 "right", 10 "wrong" and 4 "uncertain". (Some are both wrong and right, of course. And some of the wrongs are very wrong, ameliorated only a little by little rights.) Even so, that's mostly better than a coin toss. Though I suppose I should now embark on a set of predictions for 2006..


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