When Viruses Attack
By Tim O’Toole
Over the past decade we have seen computers become common household items that many of us could no longer live without. They have become an integral part of society, allowing us to find virtually any piece of information needed within seconds. However, with the good comes the bad.
The Latest Warnings
Computer viruses are constantly being written and sent out via e-mail, websites, and other files. This new form of cyber-terrorism can disrupt our business and personal lives. The latest attack involves the MyDoom virus. In just a few days, this virus has become the most widely spread computer bug ever, infecting hundreds of millions of computers throughout the world.
The MyDoom virus has two versions currently circling around the Internet. Recipients of MyDoom.A infected e-mails had to open an attached file in order to have their computers contract the virus. However, the MyDoom.B virus spreads when users open their e-mail, even if they leave attachments closed.
MyDoom.A is programmed to send spam e-mails to spread the infection to other computers, and thus create an army of machines to unleash a massive digital attack next week on Microsoft and software firm SCO Group Inc. Once infected, the MyDoom.B virus can quietly slip into your computer undetected and will block access to anti-virus websites where patches are available. Again, this virus is designed to unleash attacks on SCO and Microsoft.
The virus is believed to have been written by a group of computer hackers similar to those who created the Blaster virus that infected computers this fall. Their belief is that Microsoft is only concerned with making money and not creating quality software. Therefore, the group supports the Linux operating system instead of Windows. SCO, a small Utah-based software company, is suing International Business Machines Corp. over the use of code for the Linux operating system. SCO has been the target of many attacks in the past by pro-Linux protesters.
How to Prevent Infection
Preventing your computer from infection simply involves common sense. The following tips should allow your computer to remain virus free:
- Always have virus protection enabled. With virus protection running, there is a good chance that the infected e-mail attachments will be deleted before they attack your computer. Your outgoing e-mail will also be scanned to make sure it does not contain any viruses. If you do not have virus protection, you should purchase software immediately. Norton AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan are two of the most common programs on the market. Both programs automatically download updates to prevent future infection.
- Frequently download and install new Windows updates. Visit the Microsoft website (www.microsoft.com) often and check for system updates. If you have Windows XP, your system will automatically download updates. However, depending on your settings, it will be up to you to install them on your computer.
- Avoid opening attachments from unknown senders. In most situations, antivirus software will detect and delete an infected attachment before any damage can be done. However, if you receive attachments from people you do not know, do not open them, and delete the e-mail immediately. Often times a virus can mimic e-mails from your address book. In this case, only open an attachment you know you will be receiving.
In short, the best way to prevent an infection is to install antivirus software and constantly update it and your system.
What to do If You Think You Have a Virus
Your computer may not function properly due to a number of issues completely unrelated to a virus. For example, a recent hardware or software upgrade may not be compatible with your system, and could cause it to become unstable.
If you are sure this is not the case, you should follow the steps listed:
- Update your antivirus software and virus definitions. As mentioned earlier, your software will update itself, but it never hurts to double check. When this is complete, you may move on to step two.
- Run a full system scan. A full system scan will check all directories and files on your computer for infections. If a virus is found, an attempt will be made to remove it from your machine. If successful, your computer will be repaired.
If no viruses have been detected, and you still believe your system is infected, try running another virus scanner on your computer.
With virus protection enabled, running, and updated, you will greatly increase the chances of preventing your computer from becoming infected. Do not open any files, e-mails or attachments from unknown, unreliable or untrustworthy sources. Always err on the side of caution.
About the Author
Tim O’Toole is the Director of Marketing, Education, and Information Technology for the MCAA. He has a Masters in Business Administration from Webster University and has worked in the masonry industry since 2003.