Viruses Help Push NZ IT Security Spending

The proliferation of e-mail viruses — this week's scourge being Bugbear.B — is helping sales of computer security products to outpace the rest of the IT market.

According to analyst IDC, New Zealand organisations spent NZ$36 million (US$20.7 million) on security software last year. By 2007, they'll be spending NZ$89.1 million, IDC estimates.

The latest virus to test security systems, Bugbear-B, appears to be losing its sting, says the head of Symantec's Sydney antivirus research center, David Banes.

"We've been noticing a 7 per cent to 8 per cent increase in calls," says Banes, who adds that the greatest threat of Bugbear.B is its keystroke logger feature.

Like an earlier Bugbear virus, which was first detected last September, Bugbear.B attempts to exploit known vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Outlook, Outlook Express and Internet Explorer products that enables attachments to be automatically opened when the e-mail containing them is opened, according to antivirus company Sophos.

Bugbear.B is also capable of detecting and shutting down antivirus programs that it finds running on the systems it infects, Sophos says.

Symantec's Banes says patches put in place for Bugbear should be effective against the new variant, and antivirus vendors have been quick to make available updates of their products that block it.

Viruses and other Internet-borne nasties are making security top-of-mind for CIOs, according to IDC, encouraging them to spend on security.

"IDC has witnessed a major shift in the role security plays within Australian and New Zealand organisations," says software analyst Megan Dahlgren.

"No longer just a peripheral technology, security is becoming a critical enabler of business continuity and is directly linked to the survivability of an organisation." New Zealand security spending grew more than 30 per cent last year, she says, enjoying significantly higher growth than most markets in the IT industry.

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