Bits & P.C.s: An old subject revisited
By Richard Heller
It has been quite a while since I have mentioned anti-virus software, and many of you may believe that there is no longer a danger of your computer being attacked. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The latest viruses and Trojans may appear as e-mails with links to sites that will give you information regarding the war with Iraq or other national issues. There have also been e-mails with links to charitable sites. The problem is, these links may actually install a virus or Trojan on your computer instead of taking you to the Web site.
I have come across many computers that have an anti-virus program installed on them that are many years old. Because thousands of viruses and Trojans are written each year, the programs that they have are more-or-less of little value. Many of the anti-virus programs that are pre-installed on a computer will come with a three-month to one year of anti-virus updates, while a purchased version of the program includes one year of updates.
If you have a broadband Internet connection such as DSL or cable, you should configure the software to automatically check for updates while a dial-up Internet connection should check at least weekly.
In order to protect yourself, you should be very careful when you receive e-mail, especially e-mail that contains attachments. Many of the viruses and Trojans will take names and e-mail addresses from the Windows or other address book on a computer and will use these names when the virus is sent. When this happens, you receive an e-mail from someone that you know that may contain a photo or a cartoon. When you open the attachment, the virus installs itself, and instead of a photo, you are greeted with a computer that either will not run the next time it is turned on or programs that no longer function correctly.
I have had people make the comment to me that they arent worried because they are not on the Internet, they are only using the computer for e-mail. Unfortunately, these people dont realize that the e-mail is part of the Internet and they are the targets of the virus writers because of their naivete. Many of these virus programs are used to create Denial of Service (DOS) attacks on web sites. A DOS attack occurs when hundred of computers attempt to access a Web site at the same time. The Web site becomes overloaded and legitimate attempts to access the site are blocked. Most people are not even aware that their computer has been infected and that they are actually taking part in this mischief.
You can still download a free copy of AVG Anti-virus software from Grisoft (www.grisoft.com). This software offers free updates to the latest virus information files as well as scanning your e-mail before it is sent and as it is received. You can set up a schedule for your system to be checked for viruses and for the program to check for updates. Remember that an anti-virus program is only as good as the latest update.
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 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.