SirCam, Klez, SoBig, MSBlast, Dumaru, Poza - Viruses and worms spread by email and other means have become a serious threat both to email and sometimes to parts of the Internet itself. Then there are the malicious hackers (also known as "crackers" since they "crack" system security) who try to break into computers. So what can you do to keep your computer clean? Practice safe computing! Here are some things you should know and tips that I hope will help.|
It's a wild and woolly Internet, folks. Be careful out there! -- Kristina
- Understand: No computer is truly secure. You should know that right off the bat. Every day, people are coming up with new viruses and worms, and figuring out ways to use security vulnerabilities to their advantage. The anti-virus software makers try to keep up, and they do a fantastic job, but sometimes a virus may get you before they can. Just remember: you can usually fix your computer (or get it fixed). If you are hacked or infected with a virus, it doesn't have to ruin
- Keep your operatingg system and software up-to-date! A lot of people don't do this, but you have to! Windows has Windows Update, RedHat Linux has the "up2date" command and the Redhat Network that will tell you which updates you need if you buy RedHat, Debian Linux has "apt-get" (I love apt-get!), and there may be other auto-updating stuff for other operating systems. Don't just look at what needs to be updated and think, "Aw, that's too much trouble." Keep your system updated! Period. It's easier to do that than to fix a problem that you wouldn't have had if you updated months ago. :-)
- Keep backups of your important stuff! Periodically, you should back up and save your important documents, papers, essays, gradebooks, emails, images -- whatever items you've created or you've put on your computer. Put them onto a CD, or floppy disks, or a zip drive, etc, and store them in a safe place. Don't bother backing up the software programs themselves like Word or Photoshop, because as long as you have the disks, you can reinstall them. Just save your data -- at least once a week at a MINIMUM. If the data is really important to you, make daily backups part of your routine. If a virus does infect your computer, and if it's a virus or worm that deletes or corrupts files, the time spent backing up your data will be well spent.
- Don't buy anything that is advertised by junk email. Unless you have specifically asked to be signed up for an advertisement list, don't buy anything advertised by junk email or "spam." While there are a few legitimate advertisers, a large amount of spam is sent from unethical companies who use other people's mail servers (without their knowing!) to send their spam, and from those who forge other people's email addresses. Can you trust a company like that to provide you anti-spam or antivirus protection? I think not. Since there's no real way to tell who is legit and who is not, it's safer not to buy from anyone who sends ads that you didn't ask for. Note: this doesn't count responsible companies who verify that you really want to be on their list before sending you stuff. :-)
- Don't open email attachments! I cannot stress this enough: it used to be that you could open attachments if you knew who they were from. NOT ANYMORE! Viruses and worms will forge email addresses of people you know. In fact, just because an attachment says it's from your friend, it may not even be your friend who has the virus! ANY email attachment should be suspect. Always verify with your friend that they meant to send you the attachment before you open it. I don't care if it says, "Hey, Bob, here's my resume." Be paranoid!
- Again: don't open email attachments! It's also possible that the funny game or program your friend sent you has a virus and they don't know it! Always scan attachments for viruses before opening them. Even if it looks "official"
and says something like "install this patch immediately" -- DO NOT OPEN IT without confirming that the sender really sent it, and after scanning it for viruses!
Some viruses and worms fake their return address so it looks like the email is coming from Microsoft or even your Internet Service Provider!
- Buy anti-virus software and KEEP IT UP-TO-DATE! That second part is where a lot of people make mistakes. Many people don't realize that you must update your anti-virus software constantly to keep ahead of the virus and worm writers. Anti-virus manufacturers are constantly releasing updates, but YOU have to install them. Even if the software says it has "automatic updates," check it once a week anyway. I've noticed that some of these programs are not very "automatic" at all. :-)
I use McAfee antivirus but I have also used Norton. Norton works great (I installed it for my Mom), but I don't recommend them as much anymore because I get so much spam advertising "Norton Systemworks." I don't think Norton is sending the spam themselves, but if they don't condone it, then why don't I get spam for other antivirus software? :-) Also, I love Trend Micro antivirus because they offer a free online virus scanner with no strings attached. When it comes time to renew my antivirus, I'm going to buy their product.
- Clean your system if you get infected!
Symantec has created this
tool to remove the MSBlast worm. In addition, you can download McAfee's Stinger tool
which will detect several kinds of worms and viruses in addition to MSBLAST. Also, (I think that Trend Micro's free online virus scanner may clean your system as well, but the cleaning part may cost money.) PLEASE NOTE that if your system has been infected,
there may be internal damage that these tools cannot repair.
- Get a personal firewall! There are several free personal firewall programs you can get that will help keep you safe from outside attacks from malicious
hackers, AND, will also help keep you safe from some viruses or worms that spread via other Internet means than email. I have used ZoneAlarm from Zonelabs and Sygate personal edition, both of which are free (although they will try to sell you the "pro" editions). I prefer Sygate because it allows me to create my own firewall rules, but I used ZoneAlarm for quite some time with no problems. A search on Google for "free personal firewall" will get you several results. There's no excuse for not having one. They're free! :-)
- Read the instructions! Firewall products will often pop up "alerts" about Internet traffic that is normal. Don't get too crazy reporting these things to your Internet Service Provider. Find out what's normal before you panic.
- Keep your software up-to-date! Yes, I said this already, but it's worth saying again. I even said this in my page on the MSBlast worm: "I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to keep antivirus and other software up to date. New viruses, worms, and threats appear constantly, and out-of-date software cannot protect you."