Zurich exhibition reveals latest in Internet security
More than 40,000 IT professionals are expected to view the newest developments in Internet security at the iEX Internet exhibition that opened on Wednesday in Zurich.
Internet security is a major theme of this year's event.
Now in its sixth year, the iEX expo has established itself as one of the leading Internet shows for professionals in Europe. Over an area of 14,000 square metres, 430 exhibitors will display the latest developments in the sector from publishing to systems and software and networking.
All the major names such as IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are represented as well as niche-players, specialists and newcomers.
Visitors are expected to seek out the latest business solutions in the Internet market. They will also be able to take part in parallel seminars and conferences where participants can swap experiences and know-how.
The motto of this year's iEX exhibition is "Meet the Real E-Business". Organisers say the first phase of the Internet revolution is now over, with 83 per cent of Swiss companies having installed the Internet and 28 per cent of people using it daily.
They say the Internet is now viewed as a business tool like any other: a means to an end rather than the end in itself.
But as with any technology, there is a downside, too - the growing danger posed by computer viruses - and this will be a major theme at this year's event.
The industry has lived with the problem for more than 15 years, but the past two years has seen the threat from viruses explode. They have also become a lot more sophisticated.
"Traditional viruses relied on end users transferring the virus from one machine to another, typically on a floppy disc or over the local area network or in an e-mail," says Mikko Hyppönen of the Finnish company F-Secure Corporation, a guest at iEX.
"Now, there are network worms which spread automatically. Once a worm hits your PC, it locates e-mail addresses from your address book and sends itself out and repeats the same task on their machines, spreading much faster and without any human help."
The result can be potentially devastating for a company and there have been cases where firms have gone bankrupt after being hit with a virus. A company already experiencing financial problems may be unable to cope with the cost of the downtime.
Hyppönen stresses the need for all companies to be protected. He says managers need to realise that an up-to-date anti-virus system is essential. And up-to-date in this case means a system that updates itself everyday or several times a week, at least.
Little is known about those who write the viruses.
"Most of them are never caught so we rarely have a chance to talk to them and find out what makes them tick," says Hyppönen. "Those who have been caught say they just want to cause chaos, others want to try out their skills, and some are in search of fame - perhaps the only way a 15-year-old can achieve that is to write a ground-breaking new virus."
Some viruses are very sophisticated and are clearly the work of professionals. But more frightening perhaps are those like last year's "Anna Kournikova" virus, which was the work of a teenager from the Netherlands. The youth, who had no idea how to write programmes, generated it from a virus-writing tool kit downloaded from the Internet itself.
The most lethal virus to date was the "love letter" e-mail which infected 15 million computers worldwide in the year 2000. And things may be getting worse rather than better.
Hyppönen says six or seven viruses are generated daily and the numbers are growing.
"We can't proactively protect our customers against every virus," says Hyppönen, "Because the virus writers have access to the programmes and can design new viruses around them."
"But if things keep getting worse, we might see a situation where anti-virus ventures can't keep up anymore and that's a nightmare scenario. We just hope it doesn't happen."
by Michael Hollingdale
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