Virus rate slows
as spam rises

1 Dec 2005

Irish virus rates dropped slightly for the first time in four months during November but the level remained high overall, new statistics have revealed. According to data compiled by IE Internet, 16.51pc of emails circulating in Ireland last month carried malicious code. Spam levels rose again – more than two fifths of messages sent to Irish inboxes were junk mail.

IE Internet’s tracker figures showed November’s infection rate as down from October, which was the worst month for virus attacks (18.31pc) in two years of records. Mytob.DY was the most commonly found virus in November, at 17.54pc of the total. Next was a newcomer, Sober.Z with 15.72pc, followed by Netsky.P (11.97pc), Zafi.D (8.93pc) and Mytob.FK (8.24pc). The spread of infection was extremely wide last month, as the top five infections accounted for just 62.4pc of the total between them.

“Viruses dropped slightly but the new kid on the block, Sober.Z, might change that over the following months,” commented Ken O’Driscoll, technical director with IE Internet. “Viruses can either hang around the bottom of the league tables for a couple of months, gradually moving their way up as they mutate or viruses can shoot into the top five the minute they are released in the wild. Sober.Z falls into the latter [category]. This is definitely one to watch,” he added.

According to O’Driscoll, IE Internet first detected this worm in early November and it was officially christened Sober.Z by security vendors around the middle of the month. “It is a rapidly spreading worm which uses social engineering to encourage users to open an infected email attachment,” he said. “It’s also very worrying that nearly 5 years after the original social engineering worm – the ‘I Love You’ virus – appeared, people are still happily opening any attachment that’s sent to them.”

The rate of spam rose again during the month, finishing at 41.99pc of the total volume of email. In October the level had been 37.83pc but the previous month it had been 43.83pc, so the drop should not be interpreted as an improvement. O’Driscoll pointed out that for the same month last year, the level was less than 30pc. “The other big difference between November 2004 and November 2005 is that last year, North America was almost exclusively responsible for spam while this year the figure has dropped slightly,” he said.

By Gordon Smith