Virus scare falls short

Computer users who have armed themselves with antivirus software to combat the threat of an outbreak of turn-of-the-century viruses can take heart - for now at least. The outbreak, the subject of widespread warnings, has turned out to be as much of a non-event as Y2K, with only negligible casualties.

The New Year saw relatively few new viruses, even though just a week earlier antivirus vendors were issuing warnings about especially harmful viruses that could be triggered by the rollover.

Now, the vendors appear to have changed their tune.

"There are no Y2K viruses spreading in the wild," said Motoaki Yamamura, senior program manager at Symantec's AntiVirus Research Center in California.

"You may have read press releases from various [antivirus software] vendors, but they are all simply hype and nothing more," he said. "There is no need to panic about any of those new Y2K viruses."

Trend Micro, which has been tracking millennium viruses, reported 14 new viruses over the millennium weekend, of which four have Y2K-associated trigger dates or messages.

"Our offices worldwide have received no large-scale virus outbreak report so far. Those Y2K viruses discovered are not considered a serious threat," said Nancy Ho, marketing communications manager at Trend Micro, who attributed the "peaceful" rollover to the growing tendency among users in general to take preventative measures. Ho noted that sales orders and inquiries received by Trend Micro Hong Kong in November and December 1999 were at least three times the number received during the same period last year.

"The viruses that have come to our attention are small- to medium-risk and they are under control," said Mandy Lee, sales and marketing manager at Symantec Hong Kong. "We had more regular updates on our virus lists from a few days before Christmas till now, but that's quite normal."

An official at Computer Associates, which last week dished out free copies of its antivirus software, Inoculate IT, said this might be the "calm before the storm," indicating that the holiday season passed without serious incident.

"There are generally two types of viruses: those out in the wild, and the others in the zoo," said Peter Kuo, CA's Taiwan-based marketing director. "We want to keep those in the zoo caged up or under control. Those in the wild account for 1 per cent of all existing viruses, so it's not yet a problem. But they still could be."

"We expected more [viruses], but it's been pretty quiet," added Peter Liu, vice president, field service group, for CA Asia. "But I believe this market is growing, because the number of viruses increases every day."

The Hong Kong Police Force, meanwhile, was not surprised at the lack of New Year's virus activity.

"Most companies are so vigilant about their computer systems at the moment. With system administrators looking very closely at any glitches or abnormalities in their systems, now is possibly the worst time that anybody could try to infect or attack a system, by hacking or by using computer viruses," explained Paul Jackson, senior inspector, Computer Crime Unit at the Hong Kong Police Force.

Jackson added that the pre-New Year antivirus frenzy may have been due to massive promotion of antivirus software and services.

"[Vendors] are bound to hype these things," he said. "Most of these companies are selling software or consultancy services, so you'll have to take what they say with a pinch of salt. They are in the business to raise awareness of possible threats."

The Police Force stressed, however, that the lack of computer crime reports over the festive season has not made it complacent. And Jackson does not discount future threats.

"It's difficult to give a 100 per cent [accurate] view on this, but I'm sure [in] the days to come we'll get a clearer picture. As companies go back to work, more problems might come to light, we don't know."

Jackson is encouraging sustained vigilance.

"If companies always have this amount of attention on their systems [as they've had with respect to the Y2K bug], it will be very difficult for hackers or people wanting to spread viruses to get away with it," he said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?