Cashing in on virus infections

Thursday, 18 March 2004, 2:18 PM EST

After a recent epidemic of computer viruses that seemed much worse than usual, security experts are questioning whether the antivirus software industry is working hard enough -- or has enough incentive -- to develop new and better ways of stopping nasty software.

Over the past two months, dozens of variants of the MyDoom, NetSky and Bagle viruses have infected computers around the globe. While sales of antivirus software are at an all-time high, the malicious programs still spread with alarming speed.

In a recent study by the Department of Trade and Industry in the United Kingdom, 93 percent of smaller companies and 99 percent of large companies said they use antivirus software, and close to 60 percent of firms update their antivirus software automatically to keep up with new virus threats. But computer viruses still managed to hit 50 percent of the smaller firms and infect 68 percent of the larger companies' networks in 2003.

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