Didn't escape Melissa? Find out who was hit

Melissa, Ethan A, Worm and new Wobbler virus have hit Australian companies hard, according to a survey of 1000 people by MBT, a division of Morgan & Banks.

The survey shows that 52.9 per cent of organisations have recently been affected by a virus with industries operating on a global scale hardest hit.

"This is the letter bomb of the new millennium," said Matthew Gordon, business manager of MBT in Australia.

The companies surveyed were across the board, comprising organisations such as banks, manufacturers and hospitals.

"More than half the organisations surveyed said they lost time because of the virus and 24.1 per cent said they "lost work", Gordon said. "The costs of damage vary massively between the different businesses."

According to Gordon, 12 months ago the perception among companies was that there was little danger to business from computer viruses. However, with increased networking and the proliferation of destructive viruses, a different picture of people's attitudes emerged.

A number of clients expressed concern over the legal ramifications of infections to businesses. "Who is liable when an individual sends an e-mail that subsequently brings systems down?" Gordon said. "Legislation has not yet covered this area, a potential minefield for corporate lawyers."

The survey also revealed that sometimes it is not possible to trace the culprit, with only 61 per cent of companies able to identify the source of a virus.

"Does this mean we will see the increase of disclaimers at the end of every e-mail sent from a business?" Gordon asked. "And will this measure indemnify a business under the law as it stands?

"Companies need to introduce clear policies and will need to police employee e-mail and Internet activity closely to avoid these issues."

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