Virus infections drop, spam on the up

Spam deluge eclipses virus email threat

The number of viruses hitting Irish inboxes has fallen but spam continues to rise, according to figures from IE Internet.

The Irish email monitoring firm found that the rate of virus infection in the mails that it filtered for its customers fell to 11.65 per cent in September. This reverses the brief rise seen in August 2006, when the rate of infection rose to 15.15 per cent.

The Mytob virus is still heading the pack, responsible for 40.52 per cent of infected mail, while Zafi.B is in second place, and Netsky.P in third position. However, IE Internet chief technology officer Ken O'Driscoll pointed out that these viruses have been around for some time.

This indicates that the blame for many of the viruses comes from older, inadequately protected machines that may have no anti-virus software or updated patches, and users may be unaware of their vulnerability. "The viruses we stop are coming from home installations," said O'Driscoll, speaking with ENN.

This could also explain the current spam surge, which reached a significant 53.2 per cent of the emails filtered by IE Internet during September.

The US was still at the top of the spam tables, generating 44.13 per cent of the spam filtered by IE Internet. This was followed by the Republic of Korea, with 13.75 per cent. The UK snuck in at the end of the top six, responsible for a little over nine per cent of the spam mails.

"This is the third time this year the spam rate has exceeded 50 per cent," said O'Driscoll. "It's pretty significant to say that 50 per cent of the emails Irish businesses are receiving is spam."

O'Driscoll explained that spammers often pay virus writers to use the network of zombie computers created by virus infections to distribute their spam. However, even reducing the number of virus infections is no guarantee that the spam rate would drop, he said, adding that shutting down one avenue would simply encourage spammers to exploit other things.

O'Driscoll pointed out that the best weapon in the fight against spam is education, rather than simply relying on legislation or technology to deal with the problem. People are continuing to buy products advertised in spam emails, he said.

Legislating against spammers has simply encouraged them to add an extra anonymous layer to their business, using unsuspecting users to distribute the mail unknowingly, O'Driscoll concluded.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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