European firms expect virus attacks to double

Most large European companies are expecting the number of virus attacks to double over the next 10 years, according to a survey conducted by MessageLabs

Email security firm MessageLabs on Monday said that almost 70 percent of European companies expect the number of email viruses to double over the next 10 years while 40 percent expect payloads to become more destructive.

This negative attitude comes despite software developers -- like Microsoft -- choosing to halt the development of new features in favour of clearing up existing vulnerabilities and improving coding practices.

Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs, said not only are the survey results conclusive, they resemble the company's own customer data that plots the rise and rise of virus traffic.

"The ratio of viruses to email last month was 1:10.7, while this time last year it was 1:125.5 and back in 2002 the ratio overall was just 1:212. We've seen the future and it's gloomy," said Sunner.

Although the number of viruses has increased dramatically, the majority have payloads designed to irritate and clog bandwidth rather than destroy data. However, respondents to the survey expect this to change between now and 2014.

Almost 80 percent of respondents said they expect payloads to be more destructive while only 4 percent think viruses will cause less problems than they do now. Around 20 percent of companies believe email viruses will remain their main security issue in 10 years' time.

Sunner said that virus writers and spam senders are working together to create more complicated malware that is increasingly difficult to detect.

"The increased convergence of virus and spam writing techniques over the past year has led to a much more complex threat, with IT systems being attacked and compromised through the back door," said Sunner.