Irish virus rate lower as spam level hits new high

3 May 2005

Virus rates in Irish emails fell again during April, but spam levels rose slightly; now almost two fifths of the email circulating in Ireland is estimated to be junk messages.

By contrast, for the same month last year, the virus rate was 4.55pc and spam was found in 26.94pc of emails.

According to the latest tracker figures from the email and hosting provider IE Internet, last month 7.55pc of emails contained a worm or virus. This does not correlate to the amount of infected computers, however, as the malicious code is often stopped before it has the chance to infect other machines. The amount of viruses may actually originate from a small number of computers that have already been compromised.

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. In descending order, the most common infections for April were: Zafi.B (23.77pc), Netsky.P (22.8pc), Zafi.D (21.41pc), IFrame@expl (11.21pc). These viruses have been in the wild since last year, suggesting that their continued presence on the list shows that users are not keeping their virus protection software up to date.

According to IE Internet, computers attacked by Mytob.AL, which was responsible for 8.39pc of infections, are made to become part of a botnet. That is, a wider network of compromised machines that are controlled to send out spam or launch a denial of service attack.

April’s rate of spam, 39.7pc, is one of the highest yet recorded. Only one other month, December 2003, showed a higher rate of 40.89pc but that was unusually high at the time. In the current context, Ireland’s rate of spam has been holding steady in the mid-thirties or above since the turn of the year. A trend to note is that while the US remains the largest single source of spam, the amount of spam originating in Europe has risen by 80pc in the past month and currently stands at 8.16pc of all unsolicited commercial email in Ireland.

By Gordon Smith