Irish virus levels remain high despite monthly drop


3 Aug 2005

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Almost one in 10 Irish emails carried a virus last month, new figures show. Although this is a sizeable drop from levels recorded in June, it’s still one of the highest levels to far this year.

Data compiled by the email and hosting provider IE Internet shows the rate of virus infection at 9.30pc in July, down from the previous month’s record of 15.71pc, but higher than the 7.59pc level recorded in May and 7.55pc for April.

Continuing a trend from June, none of the infections was responsible for more than 20pc of the overall total. The most frequently occurring virus was Mytob.FK with 15.49pc of infections. Amazingly Netsky.P, which has been around since March of last year, was in second place with 15.36pc. The remaining top five were Zafi.B (12.90pc), Mytob.EK (12.55pc) and Mytob.FO (11.45pc). A mix of other malicious code accounted for 32.25pc of the monthly total.

According to Ken O’Driscoll, technical manager with IE Internet, the W32/Mytob worm tricks the user into opening an attachment by pretending to be an email from their internet service provider. It allows remote (backdoor) access to the infected computer, as well as disabling antivirus products and some system administration tools.

“The dominance of Mytob variants indicates that people still fall for social engineering tricks,” O’Driscoll said. “This virus only works if you click on the attachment and click ‘open’. In most cases you would actually have to click past warning dialogue boxes generated by your email client telling you that what you are doing is silly and dangerous.”

O’Driscoll pointed out the drop in the rate of infected email indicates two things: “One, that Mytob isn’t a very good virus – it requires a human to click on something as opposed to exploiting automatically and it only spreads via email – not file sharing and so on. This narrows the arc of potential infection. Two, users are getting smarter by not clicking on everything.”

The local data appears to tally closely with international trends. According to the anti-virus firm Sophos, there are more than 160 variants of Mytob now in the wild. The company released data yesterday showing seven different Mytob variants in the top 10; Netsky.P was also present, Sophos found.

Irish spam rates for July returned to the mid-thirties (35.48pc), having also hit high levels in June, IE Internet said. This may be attributable to a seasonal summer lull, but last month’s levels still show an increase of almost 10pc on last year.

By Gordon Smith