42% of SMEs only update their anti-virus software once a week, reveals Sophos survey

February 26, 2003 Sophos Press Release

A survey from Sophos, a global leader in anti-virus protection for businesses, has revealed that nearly half of small to medium-sized businesses* only update their anti-virus software once a week or even less regularly. This is despite the fact that the latest email and internet-aware viruses often spread around the globe within a matter of minutes and that around 150 new viruses are analysed each week. In contrast, 29 per cent of larger companies update their anti-virus software with this frequency.

Sophos's poll was completed by more than 4,500 system administrators at companies of all sizes from all around the world.

Sophos believes that, by neglecting to update anti-virus protection on a more frequent basis, SMEs are continuing to put their networks and critical data at risk by not adequately guarding themselves against the latest virus threats.

"Updating your anti-virus software only once a week is like brushing your teeth only once a week - it only gives you the minimum protection and could lead to painful consequences in the future," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos Anti-Virus. "Hundreds of new viruses are discovered every month and some can spread internationally in no time at all. All companies, regardless of size, should review their anti-virus policies regularly ensuring that their anti-virus products are updated frequently enough to protect their systems from new threats."

The poll also revealed that only 46 per cent of SMEs have implemented anti-virus gateway protection (to combat viruses and worms which spread via email) compared with 70 per cent of larger companies which have taken appropriate steps to monitor their gateways for virus threats. Mass-mailing viruses dominate the infections reported to virus companies. In fact, the top ten viruses reported to Sophos in 2002 all travelled via email.

Several tools are available to help SMEs manage their anti-virus software. Automated systems can be scheduled to check for updates from a dedicated server on an hourly basis and even laptop and remote home workers can be provided with the latest virus protection. Email gateways, the primary entry point for most virus infections, can be protected by products which offer threat reduction technology - blocking potential carriers at the gateway to dramatically reduce the chances of both known and unknown email-aware viruses entering an organisation.

Sophos's Enterprise Manager product can be deployed to check for automatic updates while MailMonitor protects email gateways.

* Businesses with less than 250 employees.