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Attacks on the up, as clean-up costs soar

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The number of attacks on UK networks is soaring, with even the smallest firms facing an average 500 assaults each month from viruses, worms and denial of service attempts.

Seventy per cent of the 50 small firms taking part in a six-month study experienced 1,500 attacks or more over a two week period in August.

This peak is largely accountable to the outbreak of the Sobig virus, according to outsourcing form FITE IT and Radware, the firms behind the study. Just as well then that the 50 small companies taking part in the study, clients of FITE, had defences in place to block attacks. Logs from security devices were used to compile the report.

As web-based distributed applications become more pervasive, the majority of security threats facing corporations will be at the application level across port 80, the study concludes.

Anthony Crowley, Radware regional director, said it bodes poorly for larger companies that even small enterprises are being attacked with such venom. Companies that fail to manage the soaring number of virus attacks risk "network paralysis", he added.

Radware is using the study to promote the need for better security defences, such as its newly released DefensePro security switch. In recent months, many vendors have upgraded intrusion protection or firewall technologies to bolster defences againstthe public enemy number one in the network security world - application attacks.

Separately, tif, a UK corporate IT users group, has produced a study suggesting that the cost to companies of getting infected with computer viruses and worms could be significantly higher than previously assumed. Research amongst tif's 140 member organisations indicates that each incident costs an average of £122,000 in man-hours and related costs.

tif's figures are four times the last DTI estimate of £30,000 per incident. The FBI's 2002 estimate was £207,000 ($0.3 million) per incident for virus/worm incidents in the US.

All these figures appear high and, as we've noted previously, even with the best will in the world estimating the cost of viral infections is an inexact science.

tif looked at the cost to its members of the prolific Welchia/Blaster worms which hit in August. These were unusually fierce assaults and if tif had looked at other virus infections we suspect they'd have come up with lower figures.

Three-quarters of Information Systems departments surveyed in the tif study incurred an average of 365 man-hours de-worming their systems. In just over a third (35 per cent) of cases, the whole organisation was affected with an average of 3,080 man-hours incurred or lost. ®

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