At Work: Finance and IT - IT intelligence

Robin Fisk says charities should remain vigilant about viruses.

For a brief period in the 1990s, the internet was an exciting, open environment. Viruses were confined to humans and worms to your garden.

Sadly, net utopia couldn't last.

Nowadays, to connect your computer to the net means opening it up to all kinds of unwelcome attention, which is why the PC protection business is worth £2.2bn. The market is dominated by Symantec and McAfee, and Microsoft is about to join them with its Live OneCare offering.

Are we winning?

So how great is the risk? McAfee reports a global threat level of three out of four, but says that, of 40 recently reported viruses, none were rated above low risk. Symantec's overall ThreatCon indicator is two out of four. Viruses don't make the news much any more, so is the anti-virus war being won?

Experts say viruses are still being detected with depressing regularity.

The new term malware (malicious software) has been coined to cover viruses, adware, Trojan horses and other undesirables that appear uninvited on our PCs. The latest crop includes Adware. Examples are PPRich, which exploits vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and displays unwanted adverts from China, and W32.Stration.AC@mm, a self-replicating program that passes itself to all the email addresses in your address book and stops your browser from accessing popular websites. No showstoppers, but be vigilant.

Viruses for mobile devices have started appearing. If your phone supports Bluetooth, make sure it's set to 'invisible' to protect your device from attack even when it's safely in your pocket. There's no need for alarm at present, though - the risk of contracting a virus on your mobile device is not even close to the risk of losing it or having it stolen.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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