Irish virus rate falls again

3 Feb 2005

Virus levels in Ireland showed a further drop in January, new figures have revealed. Tracker data from IE Internet, the email and hosting provider, showed that the rate of virus infection last month was 7.39pc, down from 9.92pc in December.

It’s the lowest rate of viruses seen in Irish emails since April of last year, when the figure was 4.55pc. For much of last year, the infection level hovered around the 9pc mark, although at one stage in October it was as high as 18.9pc.

The Netsky worm, which spread widely throughout 2004, appears to be on the wane at last. Only two of its variants were in the top five recorded infections; Netsky.P was in third place, found in 18.28pc of infected emails and Netsky.B was in fifth place with 5.12pc. Zafi.D and Zafi.B held first and second place respectively, accounting for more than 70pc of all infections between them.

Zafi.D’s presence at the top of the list may owe something to the seasonal nature of its arrival: the virus was carried in an email purporting to be a Christmas greeting. Experts believe viruses present a bigger threat at that time of the year than others, as users tend to be less vigilant and more likely to open an unexpected email displaying a Christmas message.

“I’d say Zafi will still be big next month,” said Ken O’Driscoll, technical manager with IE Internet. “The level hasn’t increased – it’s still in the mid-40s – but this means that people who are already infected are sending out this stuff again. Maybe others aren’t opening these infected emails because the growth rate hasn’t increased, but Zafi’s going to be around until people clean up their machines.”

Meanwhile fourth-placed Sober.J fell back dramatically to 5.83pc from a high of 28.87pc in December. It had been feared that this mass-mailing worm would become far more widespread because it did not behave in a way that would trigger many antivirus systems. For the past month at least, the threat appears to have abated.

IE Internet also found that the rate of spam also fell slightly in January, although at 36.68pc of messages this means that more than one in three Irish emails last month was unwanted junk mail. “The rate of spam didn’t drop half as much as I’d expected, said O’Driscoll. He pointed out that there tends to be a high load of spam immediately after Christmas because the system administrators or ISPs have been on holidays so spammers have a longer window of time to send messages, but this traditionally tapers off. However, it has not done so in January.

By Gordon Smith