Bits & P.C.s: A serious threat!

Over the past month, there have been more than 90 new viruses, Trojans and worms released that were serious enough for Symantec to include them on their expanded threat list. The most dangerous of these are the worm programs that attack Microsoft’s 32-bit operating systems such as Windows NT, 2000, 2003, and Windows XP (both home and professional versions).

The worm is introduced onto your system through your Internet connection and, unlike most other viruses and Trojans, does not require you to download e-mail or run a program to become infected. Rather, an infected computer will generate random IP addresses and will then try to connect to a computer at that address. The IP address is the number, such as, that your Internet provider assigns to your computer when it is online. The number is unique and is how the Internet knows where to send the Web page that you just clicked on.

Once the worm finds a computer at that IP address, it will attempt to gain access to the computer through openings known as ports. These ports are normally used by Windows to allow programs to talk to other devices or to allow things like instant messaging to work. If it finds a port that it can access, it will then install a copy of itself on the new computer. Once this is down, it will run the program and do whatever it was designed to do.

The MSBLAST worm was designed to bombard the Microsoft Web site and shut it down by causing the infected computers to all try to access the Microsoft Web site at the same time. When this occurs, the site becomes overloaded and ceases to function while, at the same time, causing delays in all Internet traffic.

The worm has caused problems with Air Canada, Edwards Air Force Base, Mediacom’ s support center, as well as many other businesses. It is estimated that more than 300,000 computers have been infected by one of the variants of the worm.

Symantec, McAfee and other anti-virus companies have made available free cleaner programs that you can download to remove the worm. It may be necessary to download more than one cleaner program, as there is more than one worm making the rounds. The same companies also have an online scanner program available for free that will check your computer for viruses and security problems.

To protect yourself, it is important to have an ant-virus program installed and scanning all e-mails. You should update the program on a daily basis; these new worms are being introduced that often. Even if you updated the program yesterday, you may not be protected from today’s worm.

It is also a good idea to install a firewall program to prevent others from accessing your computer over the Internet. Windows XP has a firewall built in, Zonelabs will give you Zone Alarm for free.

These new viruses, Trojans and worms are a serious threat and should not be ignored. You may lose your personal data, your company’s financial records, or cause a vital piece of equipment to shut down. Protection is cheaper than recovery.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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