Jupiter Media Forum: Free content debate is dead

An average of 16 new viruses are detected each day yet IT managers are not effectively educating users.

Vincent Gullotto, the vice president of research for Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (Avert), the antivirus research arm of Network Associates, said virus threats have grown from a low number in 1992 to more than 60,000 threats detected today.

With damage caused by viruses costing companies billions of dollars, IT managers are being encouraged to crack down on their company's IT security in the fight against the growing threats.

"This ever-present threat means it is no longer sufficient for business to think it can prepare for it tomorrow, or respond when it suits the schedules," he said.

Gullotto said IT managers need to either create or update their current security policy and educate their users about the risks of viruses.

"It is up to the IT managers to educate users and encourage safe computing. Users should be aware of what they can and can't do on the Internet," Gullotto said.

"Education is a huge part in protecting your organisation. Telling people time and again why they shouldn't double click here or there may be all well and good, but IT managers should show the users what would happen if they were to activate a virus."

Gullotto said the average virus writer is usually male, aged between 18 and 25, and in a regular job such as systems administrator or programming.

Steve Bittinger, director of research at Gartner, said that increasing levels of risk in the globalised world will force enterprises to adopt new security relationships and architectures that can identify and respond to threats in real time.

Viruses, he said, are now more complex combining a mixture of Trojans, viruses and worms. These cocktails spread using multiple methods and have the ability to take over the machines they infect and steal data.

"Some of these viruses no longer need a human element to spread and with the advent of wireless networks, don't even rely on cables," Bittinger said.

Gulloto said a company's weakest point is where there are a few machines not being updated.

"It is like having your house deadlocked but your windows open," he said.

Gullotto said viruses linked to love and sex are the most popular, but viruses such as "my naked wife" cannot really be opened in the office.

"Love Letter was the best socially engineered virus ever seen and probably will ever see. With the subject line there to attract people, clearly the simpler the message the more effective it is," he said.

However, it seems virus writers are notorious for poor English and Gullotto said a misspelt or badly worded subject line could be suspicious.

He said a growing threat is mass mailers, which are yet to come.

"There are many companies watching what goes out rather than in, so this may be an area where virus writers look to," Gullotto said.

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