Virus rise could hit firms in pocket warning

6 Jun 2006

May saw the highest levels of virus-infected emails circulating in Ireland so far this year, which has led the email and hosting provider IE Internet to warn that the growth in malware could have direct financial consequences for businesses.

Monthly data from IE Internet showed that last month 21.72pc of emails contained some form of malicious code such as a virus or worm, up from 18.2pc in April and 21.34pc in March. Also of concern is the fact that the leading infections are not new. “The top player, Netsky.S, is nearly two years old and the second place holder, Mytob.DB, first appeared over a year ago,” said Ken ODriscoll, technical director with IE Internet. “If we still aren’t able to clean up last year’s viruses, what hope do we have when the next big outbreak occurs?”

The increase in volume of virus traffic is starting to become a concern, he added. In the same month last year, the infection rate was 7.59. O’Driscoll warned that the continued growth in malware could have a knock-on effect for businesses that are lax about IT security, such as the possibility of higher service charges.

“Internet bandwidth costs money. Providers of internet services, such as IE Internet, buy bandwidth so that their customers can send and receive emails and so that their websites can be viewed,” O’Driscoll explained. “Each virus infected email takes up an exponentially larger chunk of bandwidth than a spam email. If the rate of viruses starts to match that of spam then pretty soon we (the industry) might have to start taking a look at ways to transfer the cost of carrying (over our bandwidth) and processing (though our anti-virus technology) these viruses back to those individuals and organisations who are infected. Maybe a monetary penalty for spreading viruses through their infected computers might incentivise people to use AV software and keep it updated.”

May’s rate of spam dropped slightly over April, although this scarcely counts as good news as junk email still outnumbers legitimate email for the second month running (53.12pc down from the all-time record of 55.13pc).

According to O’Driscoll, another trend in the spam market is that the predominantly US-orientated industry has been starting to offshore its distribution and processing over the past number of months in an effort to avoid tougher domestic regulations on what constitutes unsolicited commercial email.

By Gordon Smith