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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 08:58 GMT
Warning of malicious e-cards
Christmas cards, BBC
Traditional cards are safer but slower than e-cards
People are being warned to watch out for computer viruses which could be hidden in electronic Christmas cards.

Anti-virus software companies say most computer users can expect to receive a flood of e-mails during the festive season.

"Just be vigilant," said Andrew Armstrong, general manager of anti-virus firm Trend Micro, "because you'll be getting e-mails with Christmas cards in or with attachments, and they could potentially be a virus.

"You need to make sure that if you receive anything unsolicited with an attachment and you don't recognise it, be very careful with it," he said. "Don't open it.

"You can get online checkers that will check your system for viruses and you should also look at putting some anti-virus software on to your home computer."

Mr Armstrong said that although most home users had heard about the dangers of viruses, most people thought that their machines would not become infected.

The warning comes as more and more companies are ditching the traditional Christmas card greeting to customers in favour of e-cards.

Around 40 British-based companies, including Marks & Spencer and Barclays, have stopped sending cards and will donate the savings to a charity for the homeless.

Cleverer and nastier

Accurate estimates of the economic damage that viruses inflict are hard to produce. However, in 2000, computer viruses caused US$17.1bn worth of damage worldwide, according to Trend Micro.

So far this year, the company estimates that viruses and worms have caused US$12bn of damage.

Anti-virus company MessageLabs has dubbed 2001 the "year of the virus".

Andrew Armstrong, Trend Micro
Armstrong: Viruses more sophisticated
In 2000, the company stopped 184,257 e-mail viruses; so far this year it has caught 1,628,750. Now, one in every 370 e-mail messages is infected with a virus. In 2000, the figure was one in every 700.

"Computer viruses are becoming much more sophisticated," said Mr Armstrong. "This means they are becoming much harder to detect and the damage that they do becomes much harder to clear up.

"We're already seeing reports of viruses in DVDs. We're seeing viruses in PDAs (personal digital assistants). As phones and boxes in the home get more sophisticated, the viruses will move into those areas as well."

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Code Red threat tailing off
27 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
BadTrans computer virus strikes
24 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Sircam virus steals files
16 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Web attacks on the rise
20 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Nimda virus 'on the wane'
28 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Devious viruses set to grow
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