Irish virus levels reach an all-time high

4 Oct 2005

For the third month in a row, virus rates in Ireland are up, with more than one in seven emails circulating here carrying a malicious payload. Data for September, compiled by IE Internet, puts the rate of infection at its highest level since the company began recording these figures two years ago.

In total, 15.72pc of Irish email traffic contained a worm or virus last month, up from 13.04pc recorded in August. It also just edges out figures for June 2005, which at the time were the highest-recorded levels of virus infection in Ireland.

Three variants of the Mytob worm occupied the top five most commonly found infections in September. In first place, Mytob.FI accounted for 27.2pc of all malicious emails; second was Mytob.DY with 15pc and fifth was Mytob.FK with 10.23pc. The long-established Netsky.P was in third place with 13.78pc of infections and last month’s most prevalent virus, Zafi.B, dropped to fourth with 10.54pc of the total.

“September seems to be Mytob’s month,” commented Ken O’Driscoll, technical director of IE Internet. “It should be noted that all of these variants originally appeared around July but it took just a little over two months for them to get a foot hold and start attacking Irish businesses.”

He drew comparisons between the well-established viruses Netsky.P and Zafi.B, which are both well written. “They converted their foot hold situation of over a year ago into a long-term occupation. It’s still early days but my bet is that the Mytobs are here to stay.”

By contrast, the Mytobs are not as clever, O’Driscoll said. They are simply a standard mass-mailing worm type, found in emails that for example pose as a request from your internet service provider to change your password. “The fact that the infection ratio is up means that more viruses are trying to attack Irish businesses so the instances of Zafi.B may not have actually decreased – just decreased in proportion to overall infection ratio.”

Spam levels rose again during September, up to 43.83pc from August’s total of 38.32pc. For the second month running, the US was below the 50pc threshold with 46.70pc, followed by South Korea with 8.02pc.

“Spam is slowly creeping up and this may be in relation to the number of open relays or BotNets caused by the increase in viruses,” O’Driscoll suggested. “America is gradually dropping the percentage of spam it’s sending out but there is still an exponential difference between it and its nearest competitor – South Korea. And considering that South Korea has put broadband into every citizen’s home, that’s saying something.”

By Gordon Smith