SMEs suffer as Bugbear virus takes hold

E-mail viruses such as Bugbear are holding back the development of e-commerce among the UK's small and medium-sized companies,...

E-mail viruses such as Bugbear are holding back the development of e-commerce among the UK's small and medium-sized companies, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

The UK had suffered more than 238,000 instances of the virus by midday Wednesday (9 October), according to the VirusEye monitoring service run by security firm MessageLabs.

FSB national IT chairman Peter Scargill said: "We are getting many worried calls about Bugbear. The level of virus attacks, combined with the volumes of spam, is now a positive disincentive to small companies using e-mail and doing business online."

Scargill said many SMEs lacked the resources to keep up to date with anti-virus software upgrades. "Unlike larger organisations we don't have IT departments to take care of these things.

"Our members want to run their businesses, not have to spend time worrying whether their computer systems are infected," he added

So far, large organisations seem to have coped better than SMEs in fighting off Bugbear. An e-mail administrator managing 2,000 accounts at a large UK plc told that Bugbear had caused extra volumes of traffic but had not put the IT department under strain.

Constantly updated anti-virus measures at the mail gateway, the e-mail server and the desktop level were crucial, she said. "If we didn't have all these lines of defence we would be in a nasty mess now."

According to MessageLabs virus analyst Mark Toshak, Internet service providers need to take an active role in blocking viruses. "Desktop scanners are no longer enough to deal with this sort of threat," he said. "You need something on the internet, at the ISP level."

Donal Casey, of IT security consultant Integralis, called on ISPs to go beyond technical measures to stop viruses. "ISPs can help by proactively e-mailing vulnerabilities and fixes to their users, informing them of the latest security risks."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant atti virus software vendor Sophos, backed calls to integrate anti-virus engines into the ISP, but said users had to be responsible for the protection of their own systems.

"Anti-virus software combined with a heavy does of common sense is the best way to deal with the threat," he said.

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