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Europe Wide Open to Virus Attacks

European businesses are losing billions of euros a year through Internet virus attacks. However, some firms have little to complain about as many do not take the necessary precautions.


The early bird catches the worm. The lazy one pays out over €3000 a day.

The effect of internet viruses on European businesses is more devastating than first thought and many firms are still not doing enough to protect themselves from the computerized menaces, according to a recent survey by data security software company McAfee.

Companies in Europe are losing billions of euros each year as a result of internet viruses and yet many are still failing to take basic measures to ward off attacks, such as keeping anti-virus software up to date. The worst offenders are the British and the French with only 39 percent of firms in the UK regularly updating their anti-virus software and 40 percent of French companies leaving themselves open to infection.

The Italians and Spaniards followed behind with 46 percent and 73 percent respectively saying that they update their protection systems on a weekly basis.

Germany among the more vigilant

Germany came out as one of the most vigilant countries in the survey with only one in ten firms saying they operated with no anti-virus protection at all. In Britain and Spain, only 1 percent said they were not protected. Spain, unique in Europe, has laws requiring businesses to have security systems and keep them up to date.

In Spain and the Netherlands, more than half of the companies polled said they had been affected by a virus in the past 12 months, compared with 21 percent in Germany. It is estimated that each time a virus hits, it costs a company over €3000 (around $3650) a day while steps are taken to rectify it.

Everyone can be affected, say security experts

The survey polled 500 small to medium-sized businesses in the UK, Italy, Spain, France, Netherlands, and Germany. Despite the fact that only smaller firms were directly represented, security experts warned that poor security by companies and consumers can have a detrimental effect on any Internet-connected business. So-called computer "worms" use infected computers to generate more infected junk e-mail messages and attacks, spreading them throughout the Internet community.

One third of all unsolicited email or "spam" is now relayed by consumers and businesses unaware that their computers are infected with remote-access bugs, according to anti-virus company Sophos. Many of the businesses polled by McAfee were largely unaware of such dangers, with only 20 percent not knowing that viruses could send e-mail messages to recipients listed in their computer's address book, and 48 percent had no idea that viruses could secretly store pornographic content on their computer.

Two-thirds of French companies polled , and more than half in Germany admitted they could have unknowingly forwarded an infected e-mail to colleagues and other businesses.

"Any unprotected user, whether corporate, small business or end-user, becomes part of the problem," said McAfee European product manager Jack Clark in an interview with Computer Weekly magazine. "We need to encourage people to use what virus protection they have."

Concern has not necessarily translated into action, however, with 45 percent of UK companies and 54 percent in the Netherlands listing security as a "low" priority.

DW recommends

  • Date 04.04.2004
  • Author DW Staff (nda)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4s0C
  • Date 04.04.2004
  • Author DW Staff (nda)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4s0C