As Valentine's Day approaches, companies are being warned to be vigilant as a newLove Bug-style virus could bring their computer systems crashing down again.
According to research conducted by IDC for service provider Messagelabs, users are still opening risky emails, despite the estimated $7bn in damage caused by the deadly Love Bug virus last year, which crippled computer systems worldwide.
The Love Bug was spread by an email that, once opened by a recipient, sent new messages to everyone in the user's address book, crashing entire mail servers in the process. The email subject line read: "I Love You".
But despite the publicity the virus received, the study found that some 37 per cent of business email users across the UK would still open such an email on 14 February, if it appears to come from a recognised source.
Alistair Kelman, an internet barrister at the London School of Economics, said: "Eleven per cent of the people surveyed had received the Love Bug last year. That on its own is an astonishing number from the sample. But despite all the press attention over the last year, it would appear that three times that amount would open it this year. The results are very worrying at a time when the threat of computer viruses is rising."
Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at Messagelabs, added: "We've seen the number of viruses detected in emails rise sharply over the last year. The report goes to prove that on a day such as St Valentine's Day, email users are vulnerable to unusual email, which creates an opportunity for virus writers."
"As human beings we are naturally inquisitive and that makes us susceptible to a whole host of socially engineered viruses," Sunner said. "St Valentine's Day makes it easier for virus writers to achieve damage on a wider scale."
The report also revealed that on any day of the year, users would open an email that appeared to be from someone they know if the following appeared in the subject line: Great joke (54 per cent), Look at this (50 per cent), Re: Message (46 per cent), No Title (40 per cent) or Special Offer (39 per cent). These types of subject header are frequently used by virus writers.
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