Users are under greater threat from viruses in 1998 than ever before. Research from anti-virus software company Sophos last week revealed an exponential growth in the number of viruses, with a 40% increase in virus growth during 1997. According to the company's own figures, the number of distinct viruses now stands at 13,120 as compared to 9,315 in 1996. In its annual round-up of viruses for 1997, the company has found that macro viruses remain the biggest threat to PC users. Sophos said that the biggest increase in the virus count has been the number of macro viruses, which have doubled every six months since they were first discovered two years ago. The company estimates that there are some 1,600 variant of macro viruses in existence today. Ian Whalley, a developer at Sophos, said that the potency of the macro virus lies in its ability to affect many users in a company and be transferred across networks very easily. He added that detection can sometimes be hampered by the fact that macros written in Office 95 are converted to a different format when transferred to Office 97. "This changes the way the virus looks without altering its behaviour," he explained. The end result is that a virus checker needs to use a different operation in order to detect what is now a new variant of the macro virus.
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