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Workplace computer virus infections on the rise

September 15, 1998
Web posted at: 3:50 PM EDT

by Patrick Thibodeau

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(IDG) -- Workplace computer virus infections are up 48% over last year due to the increased spread of macro viruses usually found in files attached to E-mail, according to the International Computer Security Association, Inc.

The number of infections per 1,000 PCs was 21.45 in 1997; it's now at 31.85, said the ICSA, in Carlisle, Pa. The study is based on a survey of some 300 corporations and corporate sites, representing some 750,000 PCs and servers.

The rising virus epidemic can be blamed on macro viruses in Microsoft Word documents sent as attached files over the Internet. But it's not only the ease of sending infected documents that is increasing the number of infections; it's that writing a macro is so simple, said John Wheat, who works in the virus area of ICSA.

"Word viruses are so easy to write," Wheat said. "You purchase a copy of MS Office, and you have all the tools you need," he said.

Aside from ensuring that antivirus software is updated, IS departments can also instruct users to open any E-mail attached a Word file in WordPad and save it as a Rich Text Format file. That process will remove the macros, Wheat said, and the file can then be reopened in Word, he said.

The ICSA study is available on the organization's Web site.

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