Dip in Irish virus and spam rates, but scale remains high

1 Dec 2004

The rate of virus infection in Irish emails fell slightly in November from the previous month but still remains high, while occurrences of spam held at close to the same level as in October, data from IE Internet has shown.

Last month, viruses or worms were found in 17.1pc of Irish emails, only a slight reduction from the October figures, which themselves showed a huge spike in numbers. Then, 18.9pc of messages were identified as carrying malicious code, whereas email traffic data from previous months had mostly registered virus levels of 10pc or less.

For the second month running, Zafi.B was the most frequently occurring virus, although it has held either of the top two places on the chart since June. However, in November it was responsible for 52.4pc of the total number of infected emails, outnumbering all others combined. “For Zafi to start dropping down, it will require users to clean their machines,” according to IE Internet technical manager Ken O’Driscoll.

The remaining four of the top five viruses identified by IE Internet saw some new entrants for the first time in months: Bagle.AP was in second place (13.09pc of the total), followed by Netsky.P (10.52pc), Sober.J (7.17pc) and Netsky.B (5.35pc).

Interestingly, the mass-mailing worm Sober.J was only discovered on 19 November. “That means it’s got a very high infection rate,” O’Driscoll observed. “That’s significant – I’d be interested to see where it is next month because it could be a fast grower.” He added that Sober.J doesn’t exploit any known security vulnerabilities and it doesn’t always behave in a way that triggers some traditional antivirus scanners. “At the end of the day, the problem is down to users clicking on something they don’t know,” he said. “It’s an education issue; we need to tell people: ‘If you don’t know what it is, don’t click on it’.”

The rate of spam also showed a marginal decline to 29.5pc in November, continuing a downward trend from earlier months. This is the first time since July that the spam levels have fallen below the 30pc threshold. The US remains the largest single source of spam, which O’Driscoll said pointed out the shortcomings in the Can-Spam Act, 2003. “The legislation has good intentions but it isn’t going far enough. It’s not driving spammers offshore as was thought.”

By Gordon Smith