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FAQ's: Virus
 

       
 

Is it OK to be using this older version (of a virus scanner) or should I buy the latest version?

Can you get an email virus simply by "opening" an email?

How do I know what I am supposed to back up in case I get a virus?

How often do I need to download and install updates to my anti-virus program?

Why do people create email viruses?

I run my email anti-virus program whenever I go online and I also scan each attachment that I get. I also go to the software's site daily for updates to my software. (I know this is overkill.) Do you think I am doing everything I can to protect my computer?

Our office tech guy says we should have virus protection on both our server and our individual workstations. If all of our email comes in through a central server and we're all connected to it, wouldn't virus software on our server be enough protection?

I purchased and installed an anti-virus software program about 9 months ago. Am I protected against the viruses that I have recently heard about in the news?

I purchased and installed McAfee Anti-virus software on my computer about nine months ago. Am I protected against the viruses that I have recently heard about in the news?

In the 2003 Spring issue you said to "Remember to scan attachments with your virus software before opening them..." How do you do this? Or does the anti-virus software (I have Norton AntiVirus) do this automatically?
 

Q: I've got a virus scanner that is a couple of years old. I update it about every two weeks and even more frequently if I hear about a new virus going around. Is it OK to be using this older version or should I buy the latest version?

A: Compare the additional features offered by the new versions and the extra costs involved. Your current anti-virus software may still be perfectly fine as long as you have been updating it faithfully. Check out the software manufacturer’s website or contact their customer service area for input regarding your specific scanner.

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Q: I have several friends who believe they can get an email virus simply by "opening" an email. Isn't it true that this can only occur if they open up/download an attachment or write something to their hard disk in order for the virus to be activated?

A: You are absolutely correct ... until recently. It used to be that simply reading an email was 100% safe. Now, however, a person is susceptible if he/she 1) is using Windows 95 or Windows 98, 2) is using Outlook Express 5.0, 3) has not taken any anti-virus precautions, and 4) receives an email written with a hidden script worm. Simply reading an email under these conditions will allow a virus to write a file to your Windows Start-up Folder. The next time your computer is restarted, Windows will run the file making changes to your system and spreading the virus. You can, however, prevent this from happening by turning off the Windows Scripting option. To do this for Windows 95, find ‘winscript.exe’ and delete it from your computer. (You may want to make a copy of it first and store it on a floppy). If you are a Windows 98 user, click Settings, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, and click the Windows Setup tab, then double click on Accessories. Next, uncheck Window Scripting Host (if it is checked) and click OK to save the change. (Click CANCEL if Window Scripting Host was not checked.)

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Q: I know because of the threat of viruses that it is very important to back-up the files on my computer. How do I know what I am supposed to back up? Do I back-up everything on it?

A: It's not just due to the threat of email viruses that you should make copies of important information on your computer. Computer hardware failures as well software glitches (without the aid of an email virus) can also corrupt or even delete information on your hard drive. As a general rule, backing up your entire hard drive isn't a bad idea even though some files are already backed up on your original installation disks. Be sure to back up business records, tax records, manuscripts, original artwork, databases ... anything that would take a lot of time or money to recreate should a data disaster occur. As an extra precaution, it's best to store this copy in a separate location to protect against both copies being lost due to fire, flood, etc.

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Q: How often do I need to download and install updates to my anti-virus program?

A: It wasn’t long ago that every few months was probably enough. Now, however, every few days is probably a good idea. Some anti-virus programs can be set to download updates automatically to your computer via the Internet on a periodic basis. See your ISP's homepage or our magazine’s online site found at www.websitecompass.com/gettoknow.htm for a list of suggested anti- virus software vendors.

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Q: Why do people create email viruses?

A: Actually, most people who do this sort of thing do so simply to see if they can do it. Others are genuinely looking for ways to cause havoc. Still others are attempting to gather personal information about you. We strongly recommend that you install anti-virus scanning software onto your computer (and run updates regularly) to protect both your computer and your personal privacy.

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Q: I run my email anti-virus program whenever I go online and I also scan each attachment that I get. I also go to the software's site daily for updates to my software. (I know this is overkill.) Do you think I am doing everything I can to protect my computer?

A: The major fear of viruses is that they will cause data loss from your computer. It appears that you've taken the precautionary steps necessary to greatly minimize the chances of this occurring to you. You probably actually have a greater chance of other computer problems such as hard drive failure, a memory problem, user error or other problems. Do you have backups of the files you've created that are located on your hard disk? If not, this is where you'll need to devote some time protecting yourself from the possibility of data loss. Back up those important files!

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Q: Our office tech guy says we should have virus protection on both our server and our individual workstations. If all of our email comes in through a central server and we're all connected to it, wouldn't virus software on our server be enough protection?

A: Actually, virus protection on both your server and your workstations is a good idea as both can serve as entry and distribution points that can spread viruses over your office's network. Just because email comes in through a central server which includes virus scanning software, it doesn't necessarily mean all viruses will be detected before being forwarded on to workstations. Remember, large firms have been forced to shut down despite having sophisticated anti-virus software in place. No scanner can detect every virus, especially the viruses that are newer than the latest anti-virus software. Anti-virus protection software, common sense and user awareness can all contribute greatly to your LAN security – and be much cheaper than the potential downtime when computer users are being paid but unable to work due to a computer virus infection.

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Q: I purchased and installed an anti-virus software program about 9 months ago. Am I protected against the viruses that I have recently heard about in the news?

A: Unless you've been updating your anti-virus software, no. It is not uncommon to discover 30 to 80 new or variant viruses each week. Therefore, your anti-virus software becomes outdated very quickly. It not only needs to know about new viruses, but also how to detect and get rid of them. This can only take place if you update the anti-virus program's virus definition files from the software maker's website, which should be done on at least a weekly basis.

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Q: I purchased and installed an anti-virus software program about 9 months ago. Am I protected against the viruses that I have recently heard about in the news?

A: Unfortunately, no. It is not uncommon to discover 30 to 80 new or variant viruses each week. As you probably figured out, your anti-virus software becomes outdated very quickly. In addition, your software not only needs to know about new viruses, but it also needs to know how to detect and clean new viruses. The only way your software can know about new viruses is if you update the virus definition files on your computer.

The virus definition files (called DAT files in McAfee VirusScan) tell the virus scanning software about known viruses. The software then compares the files on your computer to the known list of viruses and lets you know if you have a virus. So, if you are using DAT files over a month or even a week old, you are not fully protected against possible viruses.

As of this writing, the only way to update DAT files in McAfee is to purchase an update to the latest version of the VirusScan software. With this update, you will receive a one-year subscription to McAfee's updated DAT files.

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Q: In the 2003 Spring issue you said to "Remember to scan attachments with your virus software before opening them..." How do you do this? Or does the anti-virus software (I have Norton AntiVirus) do this automatically?

A: If you have Norton AntiVirus configured properly it should automatically scan for viruses. Make sure this feature, Auto-Protect, is enabled. Also remember to keep your virus definitions up to date.

Another option many anti-virus software offers is to scan a file or folder for viruses. You can save an email attachment to your computer and scan it individually or you can save attachments into a "download" folder and scan the whole folder at once. This technique also works when downloading files off the Internet.

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