Hoax e-mail may be worse for business than viruses

Friday, 1 August 2003, 11:58 AM EST

Anti-virus software maker Sophos pays equal attention to viruses and hoaxes in its monthly top 10 report issued Thursday.

They do no measurable damage. They don't carry malicious code or payloads, but the business price tag for e-mail hoaxes may be larger than that for outright viruses, the enterprise anti-virus software maker said.

“Hoax e-mails are a major headache for IT departments,” said Chris Belthoff, senior security analyst at Sophos. “They're more insidious; they prey upon weaknesses of the end-user; they panic employees over non-existent viruses.”

While corporate costs of dealing with hoax-mail remain unquantified, the problem isn't going away. And some old hoaxes are coming back.

“The trend is up over last year," Belthoff said, "both for viruses and hoaxes. We showed a 17 percent or so increase in number for the first six months of the year, and that's continued through July."

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