Computer Virus Protection
A computer virus is a program — a piece of executable code — that has the unique ability to replicate. Like biological viruses, computer viruses can spread quickly and are often difficult to eradicate. They can attach themselves to just about any type of file, and are spread by replicating and being sent from one individual to another. Simply having virus protection software on your institution's computer system d'esn't guarantee safety and security. Instead, protection and prevention is a team effort between the users and the anti-virus software.
Virus Protection Tips
An article from the online magazine Viewz, titled "Virus Protection Tips" (www.viewz.com/features/virustips.shtml), provides some excellent tips that can help protect your school from computer viruses:
- Install anti-virus software and keep the virus definitions up to date.
- Don't automatically open attachments and make sure your e-mail program d'esn't do so either. This will ensure that you can examine and scan attachments before they run. Refer to your e-mail program's safety options or preferences menu for instructions.
- Scan all incoming e-mail attachments. Be sure to run each attachment you plan to open through the anti-virus check. Most anti-virus software can be set up to check files automatically.
- Update anti-virus software frequently. An anti-virus program is only as good as the frequency with which it is updated. New viruses, worms and Trojan horses are created daily, and variations of them can slip by software that is not current. Most anti-virus software is easy to update online, with options to do so automatically.
- Avoid downloading files you can't be sure are safe. This includes freeware, screen savers, games and any other executable program — any files with an ".exe" or ".com" extension. If you have to download from the Internet, be sure to scan each program before running it.
- Don't share floppies. Even a well-meaning friend may unknowingly pass along a virus. Label your floppies clearly so you know they're yours. If a friend passes you a floppy, suggest an alternative method of sharing files. In addition, always be sure to scan all floppies before using them.
- Use common sense. It's always better to err on the side of safety. If you're unsure about an attachment, delete it — especially if it's from a source you don't recognize. Also, beware of strange links or unexpected attachments that come through instant messaging programs.
Online Virus Protection Resources:
- Symantec's Virus Encyclopedia
Symantec's site provides a synopsis of the latest virus-related threats, including information on risk, threat names, day the threat was identified, and day a virus definition was added to protect against the threat.
- Safe Computing Guide
Trend Micro offers a step-by-step online guide to help you keep using today's advanced computer information access technology without falling prey to viruses and other malicious code.
This site bills itself as "the biggest virus encyclopedia," covering everything from hoaxes, new viruses with descriptions, warnings and advice, new technologies, events, as well as online comment and discussion forums.
- Virus Information Library
Network Associates' site provides detailed information on where viruses come from, how they infect your system, the names of viruses, as well as current threats and how to remove them from your system.
- Computer Virus Timeline
This Information Please site has a comprehensive timeline of viruses, starting in 1949 when theories for self-replicating programs were first developed. The site also offers tips on protecting yourself from computer viruses.
Contact Judith B. Rajala, M.A., president and founder of EduHound.com, at EduHoundExtra@thejournal.com.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.