An outbreak of ‘new breed’ viruses that infect PCs without being opened is expected to hit the UK within weeks, according to the Research labs at security consultancy, Information Risk Management (IRM).

IRM has tracked developments within the hacker community and has discovered that the creation of viruses that can infect computers on arrival, instead of needing to be opened, is far advanced.

The lab has already developed its own version of the virus under controlled conditions but IRM now claims a hostile wild version is only a few weeks away.

The code infects Microsoft Outlook and Outlook express and Windows NT and 9x. An IRM spokesman stated that at the moment the code had not been developed into a full virus – preventing virus companies from developing a fix yet.

He added the only defence at this point was to increase the security of office firewalls and wait for a patch to be developed.

Dr Neil Barrett, technical director of IRM said: “The email viruses we’ve developed, and know hackers are working on right now, will change the face of information security. It’s better that potential victims hear about them now rather than on a Monday morning after they’ve been hit.”

IRM warned that the global loss to business from such a virus could dwarf the estimated $6bn lost due to the Love Bug Virus.