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Seventeen percent of PCs worldwide have no antivirus protection, and in the U.S., the number is higher with 19 percent unprotected, a new survey said.

The McAfee study counted as unprotected machines those that had no antivirus protection installed, or whose antivirus subscription had expired. In the U.S., 12 percent of PCs did not contain any antivirus program, and 7 percent had expired software.

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McAfee analyzed data from voluntary scans of 27 million machines in 24 countries. The study was the first to examine machines directly rather than polling their users, McAfee said. User polls have typically found six percent of PCs do not have are not have antivirus software protection, said Gary Davis, McAfee’s director of global consumer product marketing.

In some cases, users believe their software subscription is still active when in fact it has expired.

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PCs in Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Germany and Denmark were most likely enjoying protection, the study found. Those in Singapore, Spain, Mexico, Japan, and the United States were least likely to have active antivirus protection.

“We thought for sure the U.S. and Japan would be at top of protected countries, but they were actually at the bottom,” Davis said.

Spain had the highest percentage of PCs without any installed security protection at 16 percent. Singapore had the least secure computers as well as the highest percentage of users with disabled security protection with 12 percent.

User education may help reduce the number of unprotected machines, Davis said. Updates to Windows 8, which requires active antivirus protection, may also help, he said.

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