Most computer users today are aware of the large number of viruses that are out there just waiting to infect your computer. Lately, a large percentage of the calls to our technical support have been virus related. Let's take a closer look at what these viruses may look like, and how you can protect yourself.
- What viruses do
- Many of the most common viruses we see are email viruses. Once a user’s machine is infected, the virus propagates by sending itself out to people in the user’s address book. Depending on the virus it may also send itself to other addresses that may be stored in other folders in your mail program, rather than the address book. The point of these viruses is to tie up your email program and your Internet provider’s email servers. There are other “malicious” viruses that can cause loss of files.
- How they arrive and what they look like
Viruses can be contracted from downloaded files, other computers in a network environment, or from trading files using ICQ or other messaging programs. Viruses can also be carried on floppy discs, Zip discs and even homemade CDs.
Very often, viruses arrive as an email attachment or an infected email message. They will probably come from a name or email address that you recognize. The giveaway is usually the Subject line and/or the name of the attached file. Most viruses carry a known subject line.
For example, the Goner virus has the subject line “Hi” and the attachment is called Gone.scr. You can keep updated on this information by visiting McAfee. Here you can get a detailed look at the most recent, widespread viruses and learn how to spot them as well as search for info on older viruses.
Most email viruses are activated by clicking on or opening the attachment which contains the virus. If you are not expecting an attachment from someone, or have any doubts at all, DO NOT OP\EN TH\E ATTACHM\ENT! There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the recent NIMDA virus infected machines if they visited an infected website. Future viruses may also use this approach to infect a computer. Also, there is a new breed of email virus that does not require the opening of an attachment to cause an infection.
Without any ant-virus software, its not a question of “if,” but “when” you will get a virus. Without a doubt, the best protection a user can have against viruses is anti-virus software. At Rainier Connect, we use Norton Anti-Virus 2002. There are other trusted products available including McAfee, TrendMicro, F-Prot, and PC-Cillin.
No matter which product you choose, there are some important procedures to observe. Many users are lulled into a false sense of security by purchasing antivirus software, installing it, and forgetting about it. Then they are surprised when later, their machine becomes infected. It is important to understand that as new viruses come out, you must update the software so that it can recognize and protect the computer against new viruses. In the settings of the antivirus program, there will be an option to do an update of the software. This will connect you to the manufacturer’s website and download the new virus definitions. Most antivirus programs provide a one-year subscription to this service included with the purchase. When doing the update, it is usually necessary to do it more than once. With Norton, you have to update until it tells you that there are no more updates available. Be sure to read the documentation that comes with the software and follow the instructions.
With the frequency that new viruses are being introduced, we recommend that you do the updates weekly, if not more often. Any antivirus software is only as good as its latest update. Always do a complete system scan after downloading the updates. By following these steps, you will greatly decrease your chances of becoming infected, and/or spreading viruses to others.