August 1, 2002 10:40 AM PDT

Summer surprises with virus relief

Antivirus firm Central Command has reported that the number of virus attacks it tracks around the Internet fell in July compared with June--the first time this year that reported virus infections dropped month-on-month.

"In July, we finally saw a slight decrease in the number of tracked (virus attacks) from a prior month," Steven Sundermeier, a product manager at Central Command, said in a statement.

Observers hope that this decline suggests that consumers and corporations are taking a more responsible attitude to the security of their computers and IT systems, but Central Command expressed doubt. "Whether this is due to an increasing awareness of malicious code or simply because more users are on vacation and away from their computers, it's a trend we hope will continue," Sundermeier said.

While the number of attacks may have decreased, the number of viruses on the prowl continues to proliferate, with Klez still at the top of the ranks in infection rates.

With outbreaks of worms such as Klez, and warnings about possible large-scale worm attacks on the horizon, industry pundits are urging businesses to take heed.

Paul Ducklin, head of global support at antivirus software vendor Sophos, said old viruses continue to infect businesses. "Three different viruses are almost tied at the top of the chart, breaking the dominance that Klez has shown over the past few months," Ducklin said.

According to Ducklin, Badtrans and Magistr--two older viruses--still account for about 10 percent of reports, with Nimda still generating 1.5 percent of reports. He also pointed out that more than 30 percent of infections were from other viruses.

In Central Command's top 12 viruses for last month, Klez.E topped the charts, followed by Elkern.C and Sircam. Figures are based on virus occurrences confirmed through its Emergency Virus Response Team, the company said.

Andrew Gordon, managed services architect at antivirus software company Trend Micro, said that the total number of new viruses it recorded for the quarter (April to June) was 375, up from 313 the previous quarter. Worldwide, Trend Micro ranked Klez at No. 1 in terms of reported infections, followed by Funlove.

"One we've seen quite a lot of is is_exception.gn, a javascript virus," Gordon said. It's not particularly destructive, he added, but will change the start-up site for your browser to one of a few specific sites. Gordon said that viruses of this type were of concern and showed that businesses needed to be scanning what was coming through the corporate gateway.

Graeme Wearden contributed from London and Vivienne Fisher reported from Sydney.

 

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