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The number of virus-ridden e-mails in Ireland reached record levels in December, according to statistics from hosting firm IE Internet.

According to the firm, 23.4 per cent of the e-mails it intercepted during December contained an attachment with malicious code. The firm attributed the sharp increase in virus levels, up from 16.5 per cent in November, to the proliferation of the Sober.Z mass-mailing worm.

In November the Sober.Z worm was discovered in 15.7 per cent of all infected e-mails intercepted by the firm, but December painted a more worrying picture: the worm was contained in 45.2 per cent of all infected mail during the month, eclipsing all other viruses combined.

Zafi.D, which was discovered in 9.6 per cent of infected mails, Netsky.P (7.5 percent) and two variants of the Mytob worm - DY (6.9 per cent) and EK (5.3 per cent) - rounded out the list of the five most prevalent viruses in Ireland during December.

Ken O'Driscoll, IE Internet's technical manager, was relatively unsurprised by the high level of e-mail viruses in December. "The higher than usual infection rate can be explained by the fact that many businesses close for several days over the Christmas period, giving viruses a chance to spread widely before being caught by filtering software."

On a more positive note, the amount of spam received by Irish internet users during the month dipped slightly on November's figures. IE Internet's statistics reveal that spam accounted for 38.9 per cent of e-mails delivered in December, down from the previous month's rate of 41.9 per cent.

Despite the US Federal Trade Commission recently announcing to the world that the CAN-SPAM act is working, the US continues to be the main source globally of unsolicited mails. According to IE Internet, 45.3 per cent of all spam mails in December originated in the US. Korea (6.1 percent) and China (5.3 per cent) are also major sources of spam, coming in second and third place behind the US in terms of overall spam production.

These statistics come on the back of news that virus writers have discovered a new flaw in the Windows operating system that could leave its users open to spyware and viruses. The threat has been heralded as "huge" by security experts, who have warned Windows users to be on their guard.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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