Sober Up: E-mail Viruses on the Rise

Thursday Feb 9th 2006 by Sean Michael Kerner
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A report from Postini shows that e-mail borne viruses continue to increase. Is your company's e-mail secure?

With all that small business owners have to worry about, major virus outbreaks — like the much-publicized Sober virus — probably aren't at the top of the list. But e-mail is a key conduit into a company's network, and failing to secure it can lead to a data disaster.

According to an analysis by Postini — a leading e-mail threat-prevention company — of 150 billion e-mail messages sent in 2005, e-mail-borne viruses represented 2.5 percent of all inbound e-mail messages. That's a one percent increase.

The reason for the increase is partially attributable to the Sober virus, which Postini reports was the largest virus outbreak it has ever recorded.

In the four-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Postini reported that it blocked 1.2 billion e-mails that contained the sober virus. Overall, Sober represented 46 percent of all intercepted viruses by Postini in 2005.

Andrew Lochart senior director of marketing at Postini, commented that before the Sober outbreak, viruses were trending at 1.5 percent to two percent of all messages.

The extra half to one percent jump to 2.5 percent for the year came just from the year-end Sober outbreak. A recent study from IBM reported that 2.8 percent of all e-mails in 2005 contained a virus.

"I think we were very surprised to see that, in this day and age, there could be a worm that virulent that could propagate itself to so many computers," Lochart said.

"It's easy for us to assume that all PCs have some form of anti-virus protection, and I think we forget about the fact that, in emerging markets and here in the U.S., we still have so many new computer users — new always-on broadband computers.

The Sober outbreak also affected the overall percentage of spam in e-mail traffic, which hovered between 75 and 80 percent for the year.

The top spam categories by message were software and discount drugs at 28 percent. Following closely behind that were frauds, scams and phishing at 27 percent. Pornography-related spam came in at 15 percent.

Postini's analysis also found that e-mail users at smaller companies receive four times more spam than those at bigger companies.

What's the implication for small business? Getting hit by an e-mail virus is not likelihood; it's a virtual certainty. If you haven't added, or updated, your protection against e-mail viruses and spam, don't play the odds — do it today.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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