FAQ - Computer Virus'

A common topic on the discussion list is computer virus'. We like to keep the discussions on the list toward the topic of face painting so we are going to take some time to discuss it here on this FAQ (frequently asked question page).

In this day and age of computers it is more and more common that an individual run head to head with the computer virus. If you have not been sent a virus you will. The longer your e-mail address is out there, the more likely it is you will be sent a virus. More and more people are using e-mail and more and more people are connecting in other ways via the internet. With the fact that new virus' are being created and sent each and every day increases the fact that you will get one. The irritating thing is a beginner programmer in middle-school probably knows enough to write the code to a computer virus.

Most of these virus' are more of an irritant that destructive but don't let your guard down because many of them lay dormant and at a later date wipe out your entire hard drive as well as all of your friend's computers. This can be devastating especially if you do not back up your computers. The way that most virus' work is they work in the back ground on your computer and start duplicating themselves. They have the ability to attach themselves to every e-mail address you ever have used or those that are in your e-mail address book.

If you are on any e-mail discussion list you become even more vulnerable. E-mail has become one of the primary methods of communicating. It is quite common for an individual to receive an e-mail with a poem, thought or joke and have the individual immediately have it passed on to all of their friends and family. With that said, it is pretty easy to see how one little virus can multiply faster than the black plaque. It can be sent the first time in the morning and by afternoon be on hundreds of thousands of computers.

These virus' are getting more cleaver by the day. For example: John can send Jill the virus unaware. The virus will look in Jill's e-mail address book and see the e-mail address of Bob. The virus will then send out an e-mail with the virus attached to everyone in Jill's address book and it will appear that Bob sent out the virus. The reality is Bob reality does not have the virus. People that know Bob would never suspect that he sent a virus so they open up the attachment and they now have and start sending out the virus. When in doubt simply do not open any attachment unless you have excellent anti-virus software.

Generally, virus are spread in files that are mini-programs. They can often be hidden in files that have endings like .bat, .exe, .com, .pif and look out for e-mail addresses that start out with a "_" as the first letter. Bottom line is NEVER OPEN AN ATTACHMENT from anyone you do not know and then don't open attachments from your friends unless you are expecting a photo or something. When in doubt, don't open the attachment. I received a virus once from the individual that repairs our computers at our office. You can never be too careful.

On the SNAZAROO discussion list we do not allow attachments. Therefore you can not receive a virus directly from the discussion list. HOWEVER, keep in mind it is likely that if you are on the list your e-mail address is out there and this does not prevent a virus from attaching to someone on the list and get sent to you outside the framework of the discussion list. The creators of these virus are getting more advanced every day. They can mask the virus and grab any e-mail in their address file and send it out to all in their directory and hide it under the e-mail address of an address in their directory. Then you receive an e-mail that seems to have the e-mail address of your cousin or best friend and low and behold it contains a virus.

To make matters worse there are thousands of e-mail hoaxes out there just to confuse everyone and to encourage you to let down your guard.

So what do you do to keep yourself protected? There are many things you can do. First of all you need to keep proper back up files. It is not really necessary to back up your entire computer but you certainly need to back up all of your personal and critical files. Depending on the importance of your data and how vulnerable you are determines how often you should back up. For example at our offices we back up our accounts receivalable and similar files every single day. Many of the other files we back up to cd for safe keeping every several weeks. However at my home I might only do this every six months or so. You back up as often as you feel necessary. For example: if you keep your check book on your computer you should back it up at least once per week. This is all entirely up to you.

The next step is to purchase a good anti-virus software program. The leaders in this industry are Symantec and McAfee. My personal suggestion is for you to purchase the most current version of one or the other. My favorite is the Symantec product and I get no royalty from them I can assure you.  One can buy it for about $49 at any software store, on-line merchant or even at stores like Wal-Mart and it will be well worth the money. If you ever loose your hard drive you will have major regrets having not spent the money. I suggest these two because they set the standard. They also have an auto-update ability so every time you log on to the computer you can automatically download the definitions of all the new virus that are created. There are hundreds of new virus sent out each and every day. You want to keep current. The renewal fee to keep this updated is only about $5 per year and well worth it.

If you do not have the money to buy from the two above I would suggest at the very least you download and install one of the many free anti-virus software programs that are available. Get one that allows updates. You can find these with an internet search or simply go to http://www.download.com and look in their internet section. Look particularly at the reviews and get one that has the best reviews. Whatever you do have some type of protection. A "B" grade free anti-virus program is much better than having none. Most anti-virus programs also allow you to scan all your drives for virus' and most also will help you clean them up. You might also check out the free anti-virus software and free download at http://www.grisoft.com

As a reminder use the options in your software to allow auto update, automatic deletion of known virus' and routine scheduled scans of your drive including critical file areas such as your boot sector.

Here are some helpful links for you to check out...

http://www.symantec.com the home site for SYMANTEC anti-virus
http://www.mcafee.com the home site for McAfee anti-virus
http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html the Hoax Center for Symantec
http://www.download.com a free download site for free anti-virus software
http://www3.ca.com/virus Virus information center
http://www3.ca.com/virus/encyclopedia.com a Virus Encyclopedia

Use any search engine to find out more about virus'.

I hope this is of help to all of you. KEEP YOURSELF PROTECTED!!!

Gary Cole

gary@snazaroo.com and http://www.snazaroo.com

The Peakbusiness guide to virus avoidance

In the spirit of 'we are all on the list to help each other' I've quite literally thrown this page together in response to the large number of e-mails on the list concerned about virus attacks. When I write business sites I take a whole lot more care (link at the bottom of the page, feel free to visit). The information here is based on my own experience and you are free to choose to use or ignore what I say, I make no commercial gain from any of the packages I mention, they are just the ones I use and that have proved to me they work. If you wish to e-mail me with any questions or comments (link at the bottom of this page) I'll try to help you out.

So what is a virus ?

In short any piece of program code that you don't want and that adversely affects your computer. This could be anything from slowing it down, screwing up your display so colours and other settings change, deleting files (either randomly or only selected types) or trying to compromise your security details.

How do viruses spread ?

Well my honest answer is ignorance and stupidity, sorry if it causes offence but it's true. Other than the 'auto run' message discussed a little further down the page you can avoid most viruses by being smart. Most viruses arrive as an attachment, shown up on your message as a little paperclip icon. You receive a message, click on the attachment and away it goes, you're infected. Sometimes the attachment actually does something and you suspect nothing, other times it seems to do nothing and you think 'huh that didn't do anything'  . . . . .  Wrong !

Most viruses will try to self spread by reading your address book and sending itself to everyone in there. That's why groups like the one we use seem to suffer from virus attacks. If one of us lets it through then everyone on the list gets it, there's bound to be one or two of you out there it'll get.

The auto run message

Outlook Express 5 has a problem whereby a clever virus writer can make his message auto run as soon as you click on it to either read or delete it. This was meant to have been fixed in version 6 but the latest 'Bugbear' virus seems to be able to achieve this too. Nice trick, you click on an unknown suspect message to delete it and it runs, no way out. It's well worth checking out the free upgrades and fixes available on Microsoft's site.

How not to get A virus

1) Get a good anti virus product, preferably more than one. I use Norton and Zone Alarm Pro. Norton stops the auto run stuff and deals with the deleting, repair and quarantine side of things and Zone alarm Pro acts as my firewall which stops people probing my computer to see what's on it (I was amazed at how often folk were trying) and also renames any file that can be run so you don't accidentally run it. You can then scan the file at your leisure before deciding what to do with it.

I know that there are products that do all of this but I like to have two separate packages as I feel this increases the problems for the virus writer.

2) Update it regularly ! Despite the warning saying "Your virus protection is out of date." so many people don't update. It's so cheap you're a fool not to take out and use the update license. Set your 'Task Scheduler' to run updates as soon as they are released (in Norton's case this is 4 times a week) and run the virus scan several times a week too.

3) Use your instincts. Just because it has an attachment it doesn't mean it's a virus.

Blokes being blokes suffer a lot from the "See (insert popular female of the time here) nude / naked" etc. Any chance of seeing a naked celebrity and the 'lower brain' over rides the brain in the head and off they go like little lemmings, sorry blokes but it's true. Other tricks I've seen include enticing messages that you know aren't for you but look so intriguing that your curiosity is aroused, maybe enough to fall for it. A recent one to me included an attachment claiming to be a "Parole Officers application form" and a cryptic reference to several people saying things like 'number 6 is ..... and I'm sure that number 4 isn't who you say'. Oddly enough it was a virus.

If you don't know who the message is from and it has any sort of attachment delete it, then delete from the deleted items folder too. If you want to you could do a 'Reply' asking the sender to confirm who they are and what they are sending you, the choice is yours. Beware any message that says something like "I hope you like these pictures I send to you" (a lot of viruses are written in non English speaking countries so the code may be clever but their spelling and grammar isn't) or "Here is the information you requested" with no hint of what the information might be (if you are selling your service it makes business sense to include a bit of sales pitch in the mail, virus messages don't because there's such a high risk of them selecting a subject you know full well you have no interest in and wouldn't have requested.). Most of the viruses I've been sent use that sort of message, ask yourself "Did I really ask for that ?"

4) Don't get caught out by the "Norton, McAfee etc. don't stop this virus" messages. If your protection is up to date then you have nothing to fear. If you aren't clever enough to write a virus, send out a hoax. Tell people that they are the first to know about this new virus, tell them it's in the 'Windows, System etc) folder and it ha a little icon of whatever it is and believe me they are off to delete it. I have a mate who's fallen for this twice now !

5) If in doubt, don't open it. If you really must open it go and manually update your virus protection and scan it first

by Steve at Peak Business

My site is at http://www.peakbusiness.co.uk
My e-mail is webmaster@peakbusiness.co.uk


email2.gif (25432 bytes)  Contacts us at gary@snazaroo.com

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