Virus damage has legal ramifications

Virus damage has legal ramifications

Morgan & Banks has raised the stakes in the war against viruses with a recent survey warning Australian businesses they may be legally liable for spreading contagions.

M&B's IT division, MBT, conducted a thousand-strong survey which concluded that 52.9 per cent of organisations have recently been infected by a virus, costing Australian companies approximately $100 million a year.

"People are a lot more organised than they were just 12 months ago but the viruses around now are still causing more trouble and there are more of them," warned Matthew Gordon, business manager of MBT.

According to the report, more than half the organisations surveyed reported time was lost due to a virus and 21.4 per cent of respondents said they had lost work.

If businesses, especially those with international ties who have proven to be the most vulnerable, find these statistics disturbing, the picture Gordon paints doesn't get any better.

"The question is who is responsible for loss of time, work and revenue caused by these viruses. Any firm passing on those sorts of e-mails to other companies and then poisoning their clients' or suppliers' systems must be aware of potential legal ramifications."

Yet there is no existing legal framework that determines codes of conduct and responsibilities in these situations. "There is no easy solution," said Gordon. "The only thing you can really try and do is ensure employees are using the businesses system for business, not personal purposes. If someone asks for the information and you provided it to them you can't be held liable. However, if you send them an e-mail asking how their weekend was and accidentally send them a virus you could be."

Although Gordon has yet to witness any legal cases dealing with these issues, he sees the trend of companies trying to protect against such ramifications increasing. "A lot of e-mails are now sent with disclaimers about this type of thing." Yet this is a far from an ideal solution. The bug is still sent and the disclaimer is almost certain not to have any legal binding, according to Gordon.

"Basically, companies need to have a damage limitation plan," recommended Gordon.

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