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Bad year for e-mail viruses, worse to come


December 31, 2000

LONDON, Dec 31 (AFP) - Attacks by e-mail viruses in Britain rose by up to 300 percent over the past year, according to a report by a monitoring company released in London on Sunday.

The virus-monitoring company MessageLabs said it had detected and stopped about 155,528 e-mail viruses by the end of November, or roughly one every three minutes.

In some months, one in every 700 e-mails were found to have been hit by a virus, up by 300 percent from one in 2,000 at the start of the year.

May, the month of the infamous Love Bug virus, saw 23,290 viruses detected but other months were even worse, said the MessageLabs report.

October topped the list with 30,678 virus incidents, followed by November which had 23,961.

The company, which scans more than three million e-mails each day, drew up a list of the 10 most prolific viruses.

The Love Bug was number one, followed by JS/Kak-m — a "worm" virus which embeds itself in Outlook Express without having to open an attachment.

Also on the list is the ProLin worm virus that poses as "a great Shockwave Flash movie". ProLin scans all available disk drives and infects ZIP, MP3 and JPEG files.

Mark Sunner, chief technical officer at MessageLabs, said: "Everyone heard about the Love Bug, but that was just the tip of the iceberg in 2000."

"Viruses are appearing at an increasingly alarming rate, and the costs are running into millions."

"The scale of the problem is now so big that it's virtually impossible for it to be managed by individual companies."

MessageLabs employs a team of anti-virus experts to analyse the electronic "DNA" of viruses to predict future outbreaks. Most viruses are "relatives" of previous ones.

MessageLabs caught its first Love Bug virus just after midnight on May 4, when a single copy was intercepted coming from the Philippines.

Alex Shipp, chief anti-virus technologist at MessageLabs, said: "This year was a record-breaker for viruses.

"There is little doubt that 2001 will be even worse — viruses are getting smarter and more lethal."

© 2000 Agence France-Presse


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