By Richard Heller
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much talk of a computer virus named Code Red. Many of you are probably wondering as to what it actually is and whether it is something you should be concerned about.
To the average home user, the worm, the correct term for this type of virus, should have very little effect. The worm infects systems running Microsofts business-oriented operating systems, Windows NT and Windows 2000. Once the worm is planted onto a computer system, it embeds itself into the operating system. When the worm is activated, it will attempt to contact other computers and infect them also. If you have 100 computers on your network, then you may have 100 infected computers, each attempting to find additional computers to infect.
The Code Red worm is a Denial of Service (DNS) virus. Until the 19th of the month, it will attempt to infect as many computers as it can. After the 19th, the virus will send junk data to the White House web site. When you have thousands of computers attempting to access the same site at the same time, the site cannot handle the volume of traffic, and the site will shut down.
Associated with this is that with all these attempts to access the one web site and the increased Internet traffic, everything else on the web will slow down. With so many businesses relying on the Internet for such things as customer support and e-commerce, this type of slowdown could have a far greater impact.
The worm can be reprogrammed to attack another site very easily. By attacking a retailers web site, you could make it impossible for customers to place orders. If this went on for an extended period of time, it would be equivalent to locking the doors of the store, and the company may be forced out of business.
At the present time, home computers running Windows 95, 98, or ME are pretty well immune from this type of virus. The same cannot be said for the next home version of Windows designed for the home, Windows XP, which will be released this fall. The new operating system will be built using much of the technology incorporated into Windows NT and 2000, including a feature called Raw Sockets. This feature allows programs to connect directly to the Internet. This process may be invisible to the user, and without any indication, other computers will be able to connect to your computer.
This is the way hackers are exploiting NT and 2000 at the present time. Once the worm is planted on your computer, hackers can monitor every keystroke you make. They can get your passwords and other personal information, and they can cause your computer to take part in these DNS attacks.
The only way to protect yourself is to have an up-to-date anti-virus program that you run daily, have a firewall program installed to protect you from hackers entering your computer, and to be sure that you have back-ups of all your data.
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.