Here we go again!

Over the past week or so, we have seen new e-mail viruses released on the unsuspecting public. As I’ve stated many times before in this column, if you are on the Internet, even just for email, you must be running an anti-virus program.

The anti-virus companies such as Symantec (Norton) and McAfee have been updating their products on a daily basis to keep up with the new viruses. Many of you are still running your computer believing you are safe because the anti-virus program that was installed when the computer was purchased two years ago says, every time that you turn the computer on, “no viruses found.”

This virus check is a quick check of the vital system files and does not check every file on your computer. The problem with this check is that it is looking only for viruses that the program knew about when it was written. There have been thousands, and by that I mean more than 10,000, of new viruses produced in this time period.

Even if you would go out today and purchase a new copy of Norton or McAfee, you would find that the program was already at least a month out of date. All the programs have the ability to keep themselves updated while you are on the Internet. You should update at least once a week, if you get a lot of e-mails, or in a business environment, it should be updated daily.

To further protect yourself, you should be very cautious when you receive your e-mail. Do not open an attachment without first verifying the source. It only takes a short time to send an e-mail to the sender to see if they actually sent you an e-mail. Even after you verify the source, you should have your virus scanner check it out.

Programs such as MailWasher will allow you to view the text of an e-mail without downloading it to your computer. Most e-mail services have a form of Web mail that also allows you to view text versions of your e-mail, again without downloading it.

So what should you do if you download an attachment that contains a virus or Trojan? If your anti-virus program catches the infection, let it quarantine or delete it. If you launch the attachment and you are on a network at home, disconnect the infected computer from the network immediately by unplugging the network cable. If you are at work, stop whatever you are doing and tell your supervisor or the network administrator immediately. Do not save any files or exit any programs; let the supervisor look at what you were doing so that he has a better idea as to what the infection is.

It is important to have backups of files such as Quickbooks and other data files. The programs can always be re-installed; recreating your receivables may cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours. If everything is on the computer, you may find that you are out-of-business if the virus wipes out the data and no backup data is available.

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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