Irish virus rate holds steady as spam level falls


1 Jun 2005

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Irish email virus levels stabilised for the month of May and the rate of spam fell, new data from IE Internet has shown.

Last month 7.59pc of emails circulating in Ireland contained a virus or worm; in April the rate was almost identical at 7.55pc. These figures relate to the overall amount of infected messages, but many of these would be stopped by antivirus systems before they can attack users’ machines.

Four of the five most prevalent viruses recorded by IE Internet take advantage of flaws in Microsoft Windows and the other exploits a vulnerability in the Internet Explorer web browser. Four of the most common infections recorded in May had been on the list for the previous month: Netsky.P (24.29pc) and Zafi.B (23.05pc) swapped places last month compared with April.

The only newcomer was Mytob.DJ in third place, which was responsible for 16.11pc of infections. Occurrences of Zafi.D dropped significantly in May, down to 11.42pc while the rate of the HTML exploit IFrame@expl stayed relatively constant at 10.75 but it dropped to fifth place. An assortment of other viruses and worms accounted for the remaining 14.38pc of infections.

Earlier in the month, a variant of the Sober worm had figured heavily in the logs compiled by IE Internet. This used a social engineering technique to trick users by posing as a message from the German World Cup organising committee, informing recipients that they had been allocated tickets to next year’s event. By early May it accounted for 19pc of infected emails in circulation but by the end of the month its circulation had dropped dramatically. “We thought it was on a trajectory to be in the top five,” said Orlaith Finnegan, communications officer with IE Internet. “What appears to have happened is, it’s burnt out.”

The rate of spam email dropped considerably during the past month, though it still remained high overall. The rate was 31.77pc in May, whereas the April level of 39.7pc was one of the highest yet recorded.

Since the turn of the year the rate of spam in Ireland has been holding steady in the mid-thirties or higher. The new figures also show that the sources of spam are becoming more widely spread. Whereas the US used to be responsible for the bulk of junk email – and it’s still the single biggest originator of spam – other countries are weighing in to a greater extent than ever. South Korea now accounts for 13.91pc of spam coming into Ireland, followed by mainland Europe (6pc), China (4.54pc), Brazil (4.53pc) and the UK (3.24pc). Finnegan suggested that Brazil’s presence on the list could be because it currently has no anti-spam legislation. “It’s probably seen as an attractive place to send spam from,” she said.

By Gordon Smith