Trend Micro Inc., the world’s third-largest anti-virus software maker, said on Friday computer virus attacks cost global businesses an estimated $55 billion in damages in 2003, a sum that would risethis year.
Companies lost roughly $20 billion to $30 billion in 2002 from the virus attacks, up from about $13 billion in 2001, according to various industry estimates.
“The economic and financial impact of virus attacks will continue to climb in 2004,” Lionel Phang, Trend Micro’s Managing Director told Reuters in an interview. He did not have a forecast for the year.
Spam threats and network viruses will likely become more prevalent in 2004, he said.
“The spam threat will increase exponentially, and will become the hideouts for viruses and hacking programs trying to gain an entry into the network,” he added.
“Blended threats also will remain the standard way to attack networks, where one virus file will create four to five different activities within the system.”
Phang offered the following example of a blended threat: a spam-generating virus causes a surge in the company’s network traffic and prompts its network administrators to block the junk email, and while technicians try to fix the spam problem the virus drops a program into the system that monitors keystrokes and steals company passwords and user IDs.
Viruses can gain entry into computer networks via instant messaging channels, such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC) programs and Time Warner Inc.’s ICQ service, Phang added.
Natasha David, an analyst with International Data Corp (IDC), said spam would emerge as the key transmission vehicle for viruses in 2004.
“Spammers are going to put viruses and worms in email attachments, so (junk email) will become more than just a nuisance,” she said.
According to IDC, the global market for secure content management, which includes anti-virus solutions, message security and web filtering, is expected to hit $6.4 billion in 2007, representing a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent.