The "Iloveyou" and "funlove" viruses might seem like the common cold compared to new computer strains. Are you ready for an attack?
Hold on to your hat, say some computer experts. Viruses are likely to get more deadly over time.
Anyone who has had to reformat his or her hard drive and piece together vital client information from floppy disks knows the dollar value of catching a bug. Hours, sometimes days, are spent rebuilding your files, if they can be rebuilt at all.
The "Iloveyou" virus not only attacked the computer of the person who unwittingly opened the e-mail message, but also replicated and mailed itself to everyone on the computer's Microsoft Outlook e-mail system.
If you think that's bad, imagine this:
- Viruses and worms that don't require the user to open any mail but rather execute when you open your e-mail program.
- Trojan horses that hide out, replicating themselves and sending more viruses to everyone in your e-mail address book before attacking your system.
- Programs that attack your virus software first, or attack your tape backup to permanently eliminate your data.
Get the picture?
If you're counting on the free-virus detection software that came with your computer, be prepared to be disappointed.
Most viruses are well on their way to spreading before virus software providers identify them. And if you don't purchase updates from an antivirus software company, odds are the program won't pick it up at all.
Here are a few tips to make your computer a digital Fort Knox:
Use a good antivirus software package. That's a good first defense against a viral attack. I like Norton Antivirus, which is available for both Windows 98 and Windows NT/2000. Packages like Norton Systemworks and Norton Internet Security also include antivirus software. To learn more about Norton Antivirus, click on www.symantec.com.
Update often. Remember not only to update your virus definitions as often as possible but also patches for your operating systems and other software. Microsoft products have been the subject of many attacks lately, so be sure to update any Microsoft programs regularly. Check out www.microsoft.com for the latest information.
Consider a firewall. This will protect your system from prying eyes, particularly if you have a cable or DSL connection. A good hacker can access your hard drive with these always-on connections. There are two types: software firewalls and hardware firewalls. Linksys (www.linksys.com) makes a cable/DSL router that also has a built-in firewall. It also allows you to have more than one computer-use single broadband Internet connection. Both Norton and McAfee (www.mcafee.com) make a firewall program. I prefer Norton because it integrates well with my other Norton programs.
Turn off your computer at night. Once again, if you have an always-on connection like cable or DSL and your computer is off, no one can prowl your hard drive in the wee hours of the morning.
And finally, watch out for unexpected files being sent by e-mail, even from someone you know. If you don't expect it, don't open it.