Sophos Anti-Virus six month summary

August 01, 2000 Sophos Press Release

Human temptation opens Pandora's box of viruses

A report published by Sophos Anti-Virus, the world's leading developer of corporate virus protection, indicates that some of the most prevalent email-aware viruses of the year so far have spread rapidly because of the psychological temptation they present to computer users. Sophos's research highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy degree of paranoia when opening email attachments, as well as keeping anti-virus software and other patches updated.

"Viruses like the Love Bug prey on our inquisitive nature and turn virus fighting into a psychological as well as a technological battle," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus. "The temptation to open a loveletter or a joke is hard to resist, but this is the age of the mass emailing virus when the consequences of letting your guard down can be significant and widespread. We urge computer users to follow safe computing guidelines."

Although the Love Bug first appeared in May 2000, Sophos's statistics show that it is already the 2nd most frequently encountered virus of the year. It was marginally beaten to 1st place by Kakworm, which first hit in late 1999 but is still commonly encountered because users have not installed the necessary patch from Microsoft. The fact that email-aware worms dominate the Top Ten shows how the increased interconnection of computers is allowing viruses to spread further and faster than ever before.

Whilst new viruses, such as the Love Bug, have received intense media attention, viruses that have existed for more than a year, such as Pretty and Happy99, still feature prominently in the Top Ten. Sophos advises that users should be alert against the threat from all computer viruses, not just those stealing the headlines.

To view in full the statistics for the last six months, please click here.

Other developments in the first six months of 2000 included:

  • Legitimate concern about the Love Bug was subsequently exploited by anti-virus companies, which hyped a series of viruses that posed little threat to computer users.
  • A number of anti-virus companies, for example, drew particular attention to viruses that are set to trigger on specific dates, such as Smash on the 14th July, rather than highlighting the fact that viruses pose a potential threat every day of the year.
  • Some anti-virus companies continued this trend by releasing warnings about viruses that may infect mobile phones and fridges. Sophos advises that no such viruses currently exist and at present these devices lack the sophistication to be infected.
  • David L. Smith, author of Melissa, has still not been sentenced for causing over 80 million dollars worth of damage to North American businesses. Melissa first appeared in March 1999, yet continues to feature in the latest Top Ten statistics.
  • A poll recently revealed that the majority of Filipino citizens were proud that the Love Bug originated in the Philippines. This comes at a time when virus writing is in danger of being glamorised by the media in general.