vector newsletter

How to avoid Bugs, Worms and internet virus.

Common sense advice about "virus protection" for home PC users.

   This newsletter first appeared in 1997 and was updated for several years. We returned it to it's early form to remind us how simple and easy we had it, before the criminal enterprises saw the opportunities in building bot-nets and stealing financial data.

    Email attachments were a great evolutionary development in the early days of the Internet. In fact, E-mail was the "killer app" that brought the internet to the masses. Like so many other things, Email attachments are now both helpful and a danger. Because E-mail viruses cause so much disruption, everyone needs to know how to avoid receiving, and also passing on an E-mail virus. 

    One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a destructive E-mail attachment is to learn how to read the file extension. It�s not difficult to learn them, but many home computer users don�t take the time to learn them. Every PC computer file must have a file extension. A photograph is commonly saved as a .jpeg file. Microsoft office extensions are .doc and .dot. PowerPoint presentations have .ppt or .pps extentions. Many files travel as .txt or "plain text". The most common problem extensions currently are .exe and .vbs. These are files that contain "executable" or "Visual Basic Scripts". These are small self-contained programs that do a prearranged task upon arrival. This is not a bad thing. Many of these programs are very useful. The most common application is automatically installing a new program or doing a software upgrade. The difference is that a virus writer has just decided his "program" will automatically do varying degrees of mischief. So what can we do? A little knowledge and common sense can go a long way. 

    Here are some simple steps on "How to avoid Bugs, Worms and other web pest"

    1. The most obvious step in to install AND ACTUALLY USE a virus protection software program. The best known brands are from Norton and Symantec, but there are many others. See the "Resources:" box to the left for links. Using an anti-virus program is like wearing your seatbelt when driving. If you drive safely and responsibly, you will never need the seatbelts lifesaving benefits. If you are careless, or more likely, someone else runs into you, then you are protected. These programs are not expensive and are commonly "on sale", or can be found "FREE" ( with a coupon, of course ). There is no excuse for not using an anti-virus software program. Just remember to let it update itself with the newest protection elements by "phoning home" occasionally to the parent company website. All anti-virus programs should be updated at least monthly. It's not a big chore, in trade for the peace of mind. 

    2. The second defensive move is to guard your privacy. Everywhere you go on the web, you leave footprints. If you enter your E-mail address to read the cartoon of the day, someone has your address. If you subscribe to a web-based newsletter for your job, someone has your address. We could write a complete newsletter about chat-rooms and those buddy lists. The problem with having all these brand new friends is that they pass around destructive E-mail attachments. As we have seen with the famous "Melissa", "I love you" and "Klez" viruses, these things can spread very quickly. The best advice is NEVER open an attachment from ANYONE, unless you know specifically what it is, and are told in advance it is coming. Virus writers are an ingenious bunch. They quickly learned that a computer can�t send a virus to others, if it is being corrupted itself. Modern viruses attack the receiving computer's E-mail first, sending itself to everyone in the address book of its newest victim, only then does it do its job disrupting the hard-drive and files. You are not safe if you download email and read it off-line to keep hourly charges from adding up. The virus is in te Email attatchment, not on the internet. Viruses will also wait "forever" in your Hotmail, Yahoo, Orange or other web-based accounts until you return for messages, then do thier damage.  The anti-virus programs mentioned above are designed to prevent this type of infection too.

    3. Don�t send frivolous Email attachments. Chances are I don�t need one more Bill Clinton, George W, Bill Gates or Larry Ellison joke. If you have found a truely new "funny-something" on the web that you just can�t resist telling me about, copy the Web address into a note. Tell me why it�s something to see, and I�ll go to the web page. The more silly attachments you send around to your social circle the more likely your friends are to let a virus through and infect the entire group. Just say "NO" to forwarding these time-wasters!.  By the way, Did you ever wonder who "invented" the @ symbol we use in every email? What is that @ symbols "real name"? Read about it in the VectorInter.Net archives.

    4. The most destructive viruses arrive from someone you know. Think about the "I love you" virus. It spread so quickly, because no one could resist the temptation to see what was inside the attachment. In a paragraph above, I mentioned how each computer in sequence spreads the virus through the social circle. Virus writers have made it easy for you to be embarrassed. Do you want to be known as the person that spread a virus to everyone in your E-mail address book? Just think who is on your mailing list. That�s right. Mom and Dad will get it. The virus is forwarded to your brother, sister, cousin, and the whole gang from work, including the Boss. The "I love you" virus arrived at each new computer, from someone that was trusted; a co-worker, family member, or a chat-room buddy. Let�s hope you didn�t get a love note from the boss, but many people did. At VectorInter.Net, When we send photographs or any attached file, It is company policy to send an introductory Email that says, "Here comes an attachment. It is three photos for your xyz project". A separate Email is sent with one photo attached to each. A follow up Email is sent that says, "You should have (1) introductory email, (3) blank emails with a single .jpeg attachment and this 5th Email confirms them". No ( currently known ) virus program can write a individualized announcement of this type. 

    5. Avoiding Bugs, Worms and other "web pest" requires a little extra work, some common sense and attention to detail. In today�s interconnected world, You can count on coming across destructive elements. We know from past experience that viruses and "worms" travel the internet come in waves. The publicity about one new virus will prompt Internet users to be diligent and on guard for a while, but we all drop our guard as we go about our everyday web surfing. With a good anti-virus program, a few changes it habits and some common sense, the news stories about the newest email virus going around can stay in the headlines and out of our PCs. 

We have more to read about "Do it Yourself" search engine optimization or the "Common Traits of Successful Web Sites."
Visit the VectorInter.Net newsletter archives on this web site.