‘Tis the season for top-ten lists, and the Klez e-mail worm holds the dastardly distinction as the most prolific virus of 2002.

Antivirus software vendor Sophos Inc. reported Wednesday that Klez – a malicious code that sends e-mail messages with randomly named attachments and subject fields – topped its monthly chart for seven consecutive months this year.

The Lynnfield, Mass. company said the Klez worm accounted for almost a quarter of reports to its customer support department during 2002.

According to Sophos, the second most common virus was the mass-mailing and network worm Bugbear, which is in the number two slot even though it was only detected in October.

Badtrans, a password stealing worm first detected in November 2001, ranked third.

Nine of the viruses in the 2002 top ten are mass mailing Windows 32 viruses, Sophos said, with the exception being the ElKern virus which is dropped by Klez.

In all, Sophos has detected more than 7,000 new viruses, worms and Trojan horses in 2002. Eighty-seven per cent of all reported infections involved Windows 32 viruses, according to the company.

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