Viruses a constant threat but spam mail rate drops


1 Jul 2004

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The rate of virus infections in Irish emails has remained constant for the second month running, with almost one in 10 messages circulating in June found to contain harmful code. However the enduring threat of the Netsky worm is finally starting to fade, according to the latest monthly data from the email and hosting provider IE Internet.

The virus rates tallied for June were marginally higher than for May – 9.87pc compared to 9.31pc. For the first time since February, a variant of the Netsky worm was not the most frequently occurring. Almost a quarter of all of the infected mails last month contained Zafi.B (24.38pc).

However Netsky refuses to go away quietly: the worm spawned many variants and four of the most common occupied the remaining slots in the top five viruses chart compiled by IE Internet. In total, the five most frequently occurring worms or viruses in Ireland accounted for just over 70pc of all infected emails.

The month-on-month spam tracker figures appear to indicate that the percentage of junk email has dropped. IE Internet’s June figures identified spam in 18.24pc of all messages, compared with 25.13pc in May.

IE Internet’s technical manager, Ken O’Driscoll, suggested that a possible reason for this fall-off in spam may be linked to the arrival of the Zafi virus. “Normally we see a lot of spam coming from dial-up accounts; we can tell this from the IP [internet protocol] ranges. There are spammers who are taking advantage of the backdoors left by previous viruses. These open relays allow spammers to send mail anonymously through an infected PC,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

Unlike many worms that do much of their work unknown to the user, Zafi.B draws attention to itself by opening a dialogue box with a political message on the screen of an infected PC. “In my opinion it’s prompted people into having their machines cleaned up and overall it reduces the amount of anonymous open relays around,” said O’Driscoll.

To produce its monthly statistics, IE Internet scans the characteristics of every single email that passes through its systems, although it does not reveal the exact amount of messages that it carries. It manages business email accounts for more than 8,000 individual users in Ireland.

By Gordon Smith