The German government aims to counter the alarming rise in computer viruses with a national IT security plan that includes the establishment of a computer emergency response centre.

The new plan, unveiled Thursday in Berlin by Interior Minister Otto Schily, comes as Germany and many other industrialized nations struggle to come to grips with attacks on IT systems in both the public and private sectors.

The statistics speak for themselves.

The number of new viruses and worms in the second half of 2004 more than quadrupled from the same period the year before to 7,300 worldwide, according to Schily. The damage from phishing attacks, which aim to steal passwords or credit card numbers, is estimated at around