Bits & P.C.s: Let’s get serious

There are many people in the Rock River Valley who either do not read this column or choose to ignore my warnings regarding viruses and Trojans. I know this to be true by the number of phone calls and e-mails from people who are having computer problems.

There are people in this world who are out to get you. These mini “terrorists” are writing 1,000 or so viruses and Trojans a week, and they are getting sneakier in the way they are infecting your computer.

Formerly, the primary method of infecting a computer was by sending an email containing the virus as an attachment. When you read the e-mail and opened the attachment, the virus became installed where it could deliver whatever payload it carried.

The payload may have done anything from displaying a message to formatting your hard drive to preventing programs from running. The rule became “Don’t open an attachment, unless you know the sender.”

This worked for a while; then the virus writers figured out a way to send e-mails containing the virus to the people in your address book using your e-mail address as the sender. Since the e-mail was from you, the recipient would open the attachment, thus infecting his computer, where the process would be repeated with his email contacts.

Now the virus writers have discovered a way to infect your computer just by you being on the Internet. They do this by looking for your IP address, that is, the number that is assigned by your Internet provider to your computer when you go online.

Once your computer is located, they will start looking for ways to gain access to it. There are things named “ports” that are used by the computer to check for e-mail, online gaming, and many other purposes. These ports are opened and closed as needed, but there are certain ports that are left open by default. Once they locate an open port, they can gain access to your computer and essentially take over control of it.

So what can you do? It comes down to the same answer. Install an anti-virus program and update it DAILY. You can either purchase the program or download free ones. You should also install all of Microsoft’s essential updates from their Web site.

Install a firewall program to block others from getting access to your computer. If you have Insight Broad band or DSL that is not connected through a router, then you are a prime candidate to be infected, as they do not provide a firewall as standard.

Install a pop-up stopper program and a program to search your computer for spyware. You may already be infected by a program that is sending a file that details everything you have done on the computer to someone who can playback to discover logins, passwords, and other personal information.

If your computer becomes infected, it can take hours to remove the infection, and if serious enough, you may lose everything on the computer.

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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