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Home user insecurity spurs email virus growth in 2002

One in 200 emails now viral

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The ratio of viruses to legitimate emails has increased over the course of this year.

According to a review of 2002 by managed services firm MessageLabs, the ratio of viruses to clean emails is now one in 202, compared to one every 380 emails last year. During 2000, only one in every 790 emails were viral.

According to MessageLabs' report (compiled for the year to December 14), the top five most active viruses in 2002 were Klez.H (with 4,918,018 copies), Yaha.E (1,096,683), Bugbear.A (842,333), Klez.E (380,937) and last year's worst SirCam.A with 309,832.

These raw statistics fail to tell the whole of the picture. It's generally acknowledged to have been a relatively quiet year of the virus front with few new virus concoctions, resulting in fewer problems for business users.

Alex Shipp, Senior Antivirus Technologist at MessageLabs, agreed that viruses have become less of a problem for businesses this year as admins are becoming more aware of the steps they need to take to prevent virus outbreaks.

For home users the picture is different. Many consumers still do not have any protection in place and so easily become infected with viruses like Klez which are harder to spot and trace (because they spoof email addresses). As a result a higher percentage of viral messages can be traced back to home users.

Shipp added that Industry sectors which deal with consumers, such as the retail, leisure and entertainment industries, are becoming more at risk from infection.

During the year, MessageLabs has also noticed a marked increase in Vxers/crackers emailing Trojans in direct attacks against users. Although these attacks are numerically relatively small they do represent a disturbing trend in the war against malware, Shipp notes. ®

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