Infection by viruses was the biggest single cause of the worst security incidents for UK companies over the past two years, according to the Department of Trade and Industry’s biannual security survey.
Two-fifths of the incidents were said to have a serious impact on the business, with virus infections more likely to have caused service interruption than any other incidents. Usually the disruption was minor but in a quarter of cases, companies had major problems, with critical services such as email down for more than a day.
The majority of UK businesses surveyed now have broadband (88%) and so consequently, the 'always-on' facility means the threat from malicious software such as viruses has never been greater. That means almost every company uses anti-virus software, and despite the increased threat, infection rates have dropped by roughly a third since two years ago.
Other key findings are that a quarter of UK businesses are not protecting themselves against the threat caused by spyware, with one in seven of the worst incidents involving malicious software related to spyware. Patching discipline has improved, with 88% of UK businesses applying new operating system security updates within a week of their release. Although no single virus caused widespread damage, there is increasing concern over the creation of malicious viruses, to take control of machines and turn them into 'botnets’ for cyber crime.
The full results of the survey will be launched at Infosecurity Europe in London on 25-27 April.
The worrying trend here is that virus writing has moved from being kiddie-driven and for the self-gratification of social misfits to becoming the domain of organised crime where writers’ skills are being put to lucrative use. That gives it a completely different complexion – and makes it a greater threat.