$12b reportedly spent to ward off viruses in 1999

The research firm, based in California, examined virus eradication and loss of productivity costs from IT executives to reach its findings, said Computer Economics vice president of research Michael Erbschloe. Computer Economics is urging companies to take a close look at their current level of spending per year to protect networking environments from attacks that have grown over the last three years from meddlesome to potentially crippling.

"I think the [organisations] that were really hit hard last year [by viruses] are never going to forget it," Erbschloe said. "Some of the harder hit ones have tripled or quadrupled their virus spending. They took it very seriously."

Jimmy Alderson, director of Meta Security Group's Monitoring and Intrusion Detection Centre of Excellence, in Atlanta, said that companies will continue to lose dollars battling viruses until the security industry figures out a way to authenticate the validity of executables to make sure they do not contain a Trojan Horse or worm.

"Right now it's kind of an arms race. We have a list of viruses we scan for, and tomorrow a new list comes out," Alderson said. "Until then, updating virus scanners is about the best thing you can do."

The $12 billion price tag spent to erase the virus headache in 1999 will push IT managers toward anti-virus security if they are not already in the game, Alderson said.

Erbschloe said one of the major sources of virus entries into a network that goes largely unnoticed by IT managers is desktop users within the company who secretly browse hostile or pornographic sites.

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