The biggest Internet threat -- viruses
By M. Madhavan
23rd March 2001 (The Star)

KUALA LUMPUR: Computer virus outbreaks are the No 1 security threat to companies that have an online presence, according to Symantec Corp (M) Sdn Bhd.

On average, companies had a server down due to viruses for 21 hours at least once last year, according to the 2000 Computer Virus Prevalence Survey by ICSA Labs (

The same report also stated that computer viruses would cost companies worldwide US$1.6 trillion (RM6.1 trillion) in damages this year.

The number of viruses and their sophistication have increased tremendously, said Gary Sexton, Symantec Austria Pty Ltd Asia Pacific vice-president.

"Viruses now spread in hours, not weeks,'' he said, citing as examples the recent viruses like W32.Naked (Naked Wife) and VBS.SSTAnna (Kournikova.jpg.vbs).

These viruses spread through e-mail attachments, tempting users to open the them by promising "special'' pictures -- instead, opening the attachment activated the virus.

Since viruses are so prevalent in the online world, "we have to resort to sending SMS messages to our corporate clients when a potentially dangerous virus is discovered,'' said Sexton.

Next on the list of Internet security threats are Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which flood a server with repeated messages or requests, bringing it down by sheer information overload.

Several large companies, including Yahoo! Inc (, eBay Inc ( and (, were brought down in February last year by such attacks launched by a 15-year-old boy from Montreal, Canada, known only as "MafiaBoy.''

According to the ICSA Labs report, 78% of the companies it had surveyed said they had faced DDoS attacks.

Finally, third on the list of Internet threats are hacker attacks in which outsiders gain unauthorised access to servers by using loopholes in the operating system and unmonitored network ports.

According to market research firm the Gartner Group, half of all small to medium sized companies will be targeted by hackers between now and the year 2003.

There are over 30,000 hacker oriented sites on the Internet, Symantec's Sexton noted.

In view of these threats, Symantec ( has launched several products that provide an entire array of Internet security solutions, including Norton Internet Security 2001.

Symantec said it managed to do so through its acquisition last December of Axent Technologies Inc, which specialises in high-end Internet security solutions.

Meanwhile, Symantec's Malaysian subsidiary said that its revenues here had shot up by 300% in the last 12 months, largely due to high demand from small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The active anti-piracy campaigns conducted by the Malaysian Government and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) had also help contribute to its sales growth, said Gun Suk Ling, Symantec Malaysia country manager.

She did not however provide any actual revenue figures.