Fighting growing viruses

Corporations were hit with a monthly average of 113 virus infections for every 1,000 computers they owned in 2001, according to the seventh annual survey of virus prevalence in the enterprise conducted by ICSA Labs, a division of security services firm TruSecure Corp.

“Every year it seems like the percentage of coverage (of antivirus tools) gets better, and every year it seems like the virus problem gets worse,” said Larry Bridwell, content security programs manager at the ICSA Labs on a conference call held early March to discuss the results of the survey.

The majority of the viruses spread through e-mail, Bridwell said, noting that mass mailers accounted for around 80 percent of the viruses identified in the survey.

The most common effect of a virus infection, reported by 70 per cent of respondents, was rendering a PC unavailable to the user, the study found. Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said that viruses had cost productivity, while 37 per cent reported loss of data due to viruses.

Bridwell did identify a number of steps that companies can take to avoid these pitfalls. Network perimeter protection, desktop antivirus and good policy development and enforcement are all key, he said.

Perimeter protection involves scanning for viruses as they enter the corporate network from the public Internet.

“Perimeter protection can arguably be one of the most important assets in the corporate security strategy,” he said. But “perimeter protection is not a replacement for desktop and server protection.”

Bridwell also urged companies to filter attachments, especially those with files types that are frequently used in viruses, such as .exe., .vbs. and .pif, and to subscribe to a security alert service to receive early warnings of possible trouble.