Email threats, viruses worsened last year

Viruses, spam and malicious internet scams transmitted by email all grew sharply last year, posing a threat to the smooth running of worldwide email systems, according to security vendor MessageLabs.

          Viruses, spam and malicious internet scams transmitted by email all grew sharply last year, posing a threat to the smooth running of worldwide email systems, according to security vendor MessageLabs.

          The problem of spam, or unsolicited email, has become so bad that the number of spam emails being received will exceed the number of legitimate emails next year, MessageLabs says.

          In its review of email threats in 2002, MessageLabs reported that:

          -- Spam now accounts for 30% of all email and is set to rise above 50% in July next year.

          -- One virus was sent for each 212 emails in 2002, compared with one virus per 380 emails in 2001. This upward trend is expected to continue.

          -- Technical sophistication of viruses continues to increase, exposing weaknesses in traditional anti-virus software.

          -- Blended threats, where spam emails are combined with viruses, showed sharp growth in 2002.

          -- Trojans, or attacks targeted at companies and individuals, rose sharply in 2002.

          -- Malicious scams, such as the Nigerian email advance fee scam are continuing to proliferate and prosper. The Nigerian advance fee, or 419, scam is expected to gross $US2 billion in 2003, making it that country's second-largest industry.

            • The most prolific computer virus this year was Klez, which accounted for 24% of all viruses detected. Bugbear worm was second with a report rate of 17.5%. The vast majority of viruses reported this year (90%) were mass mailing Windows 32 viruses. Overall, 7189 new viruses, worms and Trojan horses were detected this year.

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