Living With Viruses



Hi! How are you?
I sent you this file in order to have your advice.
See you later. Thanks

I am sure you must have received one or many of such e-mails. That was the work of the SirCam virus, which has affected millions of users worldwide. Let’s face it, computer viruses are here to stay, and so are the anti-virus companies.
If you are using Microsoft products, viruses will keep coming your way. Virus code writers find Microsoft products more attractive because viruses spreading through Microsoft products like Outlook Express can affect the maximum number of users worldwide. When Linux becomes more and more popular, I am sure they will start writing more virus code for Linux-based systems as well!

Every time there is a major virus attack, people talk
frantically about PC security and anti-virus packages. Then everything is
forgotten and the situation gets back to normal, that is, until the next virus
strikes.

Virus programmers have a wide-open gateway to send in their
babies into your PC – your e-mail system. They have also started using a new
powerful tool – the psychology of an average e-mail user. The combination is
deadly. If you want to survive in the Internet world, you must learn to live
with these viruses.

How it happens?

E-mail is the most attractive carrier for viruses, as air and
water are for biological viruses. As a Net denizen, you must use e-mail, and if
you use e-mail, you are prone to virus attacks. Millions of e-mail addresses
worldwide are available on CDs costing as low as $99. A virus programmer can
send his deadly masterpiece to millions of e-mail users on the very fist day.
Even if a minimal percentage of these users open the e-mail attachments, their
PCs get infected and the avalanche of virus attack follows.

Virus programmers are not only smart code developers; they
are also becoming smart psychoanalysts! Take for example the recent virus
attacks.

Many e-mail users are in their teens and are mad about love
and sex. Knowing their psychology well, the viruses, which pretended to be love
letters, were extremely successful in entering millions of PCs through e-mails.
For that matter, even many corporate e-mail users who dreamt of receiving love
letters from their colleagues, fell into this trap.

The latest SirCam virus was aimed at the corporate users. A
corporate e-mail user can expect to receive attachments for his advice, or
information that he requested from someone. If someone is asking for your
advice, you feel important.

If you have sent inquiries to many companies, you will always
be expecting their replies, with attached information or quotations. That is the
psychological trap for you to open the attachment without hesitation. You must
learn to analyze these situations and avoid the virus attacks.

Install anti-virus software

This is the first thing you must have on your PC. But
remember that the anti-virus is as good as you make it! If you do not update the
virus information files regularly, the anti-virus is as good as dead.

The anti-virus software is an intelligent software that
learns from previous virus attacks and uses that updated information to detect
possible infections on your PC. Unless you provide this latest information in
the form of an update, the anti-virus will be ignorant about new viruses.

The software looks for typical codes and other indications in
a file to decide if it is infected or not. If these are not detected, even an
infected file will appear to be clean.

The McAfee anti-virus has a virus information file that
stores information about 58237 viruses at the last update. Without this
information it will be helpless. So, you have to be very particular about
updating this information.

Also please note that a new virus can sometimes reach you
even before the anti-virus companies detect it and add it to their update files.

Get virus scanning e-mail accounts

If you are using a VSNL or other ISP account, or a free
e-mail account that does not support virus scanning, get an e-mail account on
Yahoo.com or usa.net. Any e-mail with a suspicious attachment can then be
forwarded to one of these accounts for virus scanning.

Yahoo allows you to scan the attachment with Norton
anti-virus before you open it. Usa.net deletes all infected attachments before
saving the e-mails to your inbox and leaves you a message that a particular
message with a virus infected attachment was deleted.

Opening a pure text message does not infect your PC. So you
can safely open a text only e-mail without any risk. The real dynamite is packed
in the attachment – so, be careful with the attachments.

If you get the mail from a known person with an infected
attachment, don’t open that attachment. Call him/her on phone and request to
send a clean attachment again. A telephone call can save you from a disaster.

If the infected attachment has come from an unknown person,
just delete the mail. Some infected attachments come with a double extension
like picture1.jpg.bat or picture2.gif.exe or some such extension. This is a sure
indication of a virus attachment and must be deleted immediately.

Even in the case of Yahoo.com or usa.net, please remember
that it may take them some time to update their anti-virus and some infected
files can escape their attention in that period, which can be as long as a day
or two!

Get specialized e-mail scanning software

If you have a large corporate user base on the LAN, get
specialized e-mail scanning software installed on your server. Many such
solutions are available, but they are expensive. You must choose the right one
to meet your requirements.

Some of them can automatically update themselves, so there is
less of a hassle of manual updates. Of course, nothing is 100 percent foolproof
due to the time lag between release of the virus and detection by the anti-virus
companies.

Most important of all, you have to be careful yourself in
handling your e-mails. Think twice before opening an attachment. Scan for virus.
Check for double extensions and delete such attachments immediately.

Don’t expect any unexpected love letters! Don’t expect that
your boss will suddenly start asking for your advice on important matters on
e-mail – if you do believe it is a genuine e-mail, still scan it for a virus.

Many screen savers need to run their own scripts on your PC,
avoid these, as the scripts may contain virus code. And lastly, when in doubt –
call the sender on phone to resend a clean attachment.

Ashok Dongre is an advertising and marketing professional,
specializing in Internet/Intranet strategies and web site design.

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