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MessageLabs collected data from its e-mail scanning service and between January to September it found that one in every 24 e-mail messages received by its customers in the retail sector contained a virus.
Average e-mail use within the retail sector is comparatively low at 2.67 messages per user each day. Yet during August alone, MessageLabs found retailers received 55,409 viruses and sent out 1,772 infected e-mail messages.
In manufacturing and engineering, where users sent an average of 1.77 e-mail messages a day, 47,383 viruses were received and 4,422 viruses were sent out last month.
Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs, said the results suggested the impact of tight IT budgets. In sectors like retail and manufacturing, "businesses are not investing a whole lot in IT. Generally these companies do not employ an internal e-mail administrator," he said.
Sunner also said recruitment consultants were being hit hard by viruses. He said this was because they handled large numbers of CVs, many of which are infected by Word macro viruses.
He noted that businesses that received large numbers of messages from home users were at greater risk of receiving an e-mail. Home users generally updated their anti-virus programs less frequently than business users, said Sunner.
The sector with strongest virus security was finance where one in 5,208 e-mail messages received was infected and just 128 viruses were sent out.