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Source: eGov monitor Newsdesk

Posted on March 4, 2006

      Computer viruses are the biggest single cause of the security incidents for UK companies, accounting for around half of them, according to new research.

      The Department of Trade and Industry's biennial information security breach survey also found that two-fifths of these incidents were described as having a serious impact on the business.

      The survey, led by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that virus infections were more likely to have caused service interruption than other incidents.

      Usually the disruption was only minor, but around a quarter of companies questioned who reported a virus as their worst incident had major disruption, with important services such as email down for more than a day.

      The majority of UK businesses surveyed have a broadband link to the Internet (88 per cent), meaning the threat from viruses is high. However, almost every company uses anti-virus software, so fewer companies had viruses than in the last two surveys, and infection rates have dropped by roughly a third since two years ago.

      Despite this, though, the average number of infections suffered by companies affected has risen to roughly one a day. Several businesses reported hundreds of infections a day.

      The survey, based on over 1,000 phone interviews with businesses, found that around a quarter of UK businesses are not protecting themselves against the threat caused by spyware.

      As a result roughly one in seven of the worst incidents involving malicious software related to spyware that can download onto a computer when the user visits an unscrupulous website.

      Chris Potter, who led the survey for PWC, said: "It's very encouraging to see the progress that UK companies have made in installing anti-virus software. However, there's a danger of fighting yesterday's battle.

      "Past viruses were designed to cause large amounts of indiscriminate damage typically by taking down targets' networks. Today's viruses have become more insidious. These programmes lie hidden on infected machines, gather information and target their strikes at valuable data.

      "The threat has never been greater, so this is no time for complacency. Tomorrow's battle has only just begun."

      The full results of the survey will be launched at Infosecurity Europe in London, 25-27 April, 2006.

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