One-third of EU computers hit by a virus in 2010

Mon Feb 7, 2011 11:41am EST
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By Eva Dou

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - As Europeans cough and sniffle their way through another flu season, new data shows their computers are also quite likely to catch a bug.

Despite widespread use of antivirus software, nearly one-third of Internet users in the European Union were infected by a computer virus last year, according to official figures.

The highest rate of infection occurred in Bulgaria, where 58 percent of those surveyed reported a computer virus, Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office, said Monday.

Other countries with high rates included Malta, with 50 percent, and Slovakia, Hungary and Italy each with slightly less than half of users reporting a virus.

The safest countries were Austria and Ireland, with a 14 and 15 percent rate of infection respectively. Close behind were Finland, with 20 percent, and Germany, with 22 percent.

Because the numbers only include users who realized they had a virus and noted it, Eurostat said the survey results were probably lower than actual infection rates.

Viruses often infect a computer when a user downloads a bugged program or file, or opens a spam email with a corrupted link, among other methods.

Last month marked 25 years since the unleashing of the world's first computer virus, a mostly innocuous bit of code called "Brain" that was designed by Pakistani brothers to prevent software piracy. Since then, computer viruses have become more dangerous and widespread, with some of the most recent bugs targeting social networking sites such as Facebook.   Continued...