Old viruses still circulate on Irish emails

1 Oct 2004

Almost one in 10 emails circulating in the country last month contained a virus, according to IE Internet’s statistics for September. Four out of the top five recorded viruses were variants of code that has been around since the early part of the year.

In addition, Ireland’s rate of spam continues to rise and although this growth was not as high as in the previous month, unsolicited commercial email now accounts for more than one in three messages.

September’s spam rate was 35.12pc, a marginal increase from the figure of 34.85pc of Irish emails recorded in August. This comes in a context of major growth in the numbers of unwanted commercial email being sent to Irish users over the past months.

IE Internet, the Dublin-based email and hosting provider, which monitors thousands of emails in Ireland every month, found viruses in 9.84pc of the messages it tracked. Although this has meant a slight drop in percentage terms from the August figures, which cleared the 10pc mark for the first time, the virus rate has remained constant for much of this year.

“Looking at the statistics, I don’t see the virus rate going down. It might level off unless there was a major outbreak and we’re probably due one of those,” commented Ken O’Driscoll, technical manager with IE Internet.

No new virus was detected in the top five most frequently occurring attacks. Netsky.P, which has been in circulation since March, is still the most commonly found virus having been identified in 35.91pc of all infected emails. Zafi.B, which held the top spot last month, was the second most prevalent attack (32.92pc). Variants of Netsky filled out the remainder of the top five attacks.

O’Driscoll pointed out that the Netsky.P variant actually exploits a very old bug in Microsoft Internet Explorer that was originally discovered more than three years ago. It was patched at the time and a further patch was issued last year but the latest figures suggest that many Irish users are still running older versions of Windows. They may even be unaware that their PCs are infected, O’Driscoll added.

By Gordon Smith