WS>>Internet ScamBusters #59

carl william spitzer iv cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Fri May 9 22:41:15 MDT 2003


     From:      ScamBusters      Editors      <leave-scambusters-
     314548N at list.scambusters.org>

     (Administrivia info at the end of this ezine)
     Internet ScamBusters (tm)
     The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

     By Audri and Jim Lanford
     C o p y r i g h t (c) 2003 Audri and Jim Lanford.
     All rights reserved.


     Stop Viruses In Their Tracks: A Special ScamBusters Edition

     Hi all:

     Perhaps  the best thing you can do for your computer --  and
     your peace of mind -- is to resolve to protect yourself from
     computer  viruses.  Viruses can cost you money  and  destroy
     your  privacy.  We've  put together this  special  issue  of
     ScamBusters  to talk about the latest in viruses  and  virus
     protection.

     Even if you own a virus-scanning program, we believe  you'll
     learn something new.  Let's get started...

     ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
     Stop Viruses In Their Tracks:
     A Special Internet ScamBusters Edition
     ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

     Note: This information isn't meant to scare you. It's  meant
     to educate you, so that you can defend yourself properly.

     What Is a Computer Virus?

     Like  viruses  that infect living beings,  computer  viruses
     infect  your  computer.  They are software,  and  are  often
     attached  to other software or documents you might  receive.
     When you run the virus's software or the file the virus  has
     infected, the virus can infect your computer's software.

     There  are  many types of viruses and terms  for  them,  but
     we'll use the general term 'virus' to make things easy.

     Like  the flu virus, a computer virus must spread from  host
     to  host  to  survive. When we get the  flu,  we  cough  and
     sneeze, and tiny particles carrying the virus spread the flu
     to other people.

     With computer viruses, the virus is designed to spread  from
     your computer to other computers. Here are some of the  most
     common ways they spread:

      1.  Once  the  virus has infected your system, it  may  au-
          tomatically  send out emails containing more copies  of
          the virus using the address book in your email program.
          This  type of virus is called an Internet  "Worm,"  be-
          cause  it is a self-propagating virus. For example,  an
          Internet  worm crippled tens of thousands of  computers
          and slowed down parts of the Internet on the weekend of
          January 29, 2003.

      2.  If the virus is a macro virus (attached to a  Microsoft
          Word  document, for example), it may attach  itself  to
          any document you create or modify. If you send  another
          document to someone by email, the virus goes along with
          it.

      3.  Sometimes viruses masquerade as a fun program (like  an
          electronic  greeting card) that secretly  infects  your
          system.   If you pass the program along, not  realizing
          that it contains a virus, you will be transmitting  the
          virus manually to your friends, family, or colleagues.

     Trojan  Horses are closely related to computer viruses,  but
     they  differ in that they do not attempt to replicate  them-
     selves.  More  specifically, a Trojan  Horse  performs  some
     undesired  -- yet intended -- action while, or  in  addition
     to,  pretending to do something else. A common example is  a
     fake  login program, which collects account information  and
     passwords  by asking for this info just like a normal  login
     program does.

     Many computer viruses are malicious -- in other words,  they
     can  erase  your files or lock up  whole  computer  systems.
     Other computer viruses are more benign -- they don't do  any
     direct damage other than by spreading themselves locally  or
     throughout the Internet.

     Regardless, computer viruses should always be treated.

     More general information about computer viruses:

     TJU Computer Virus Information Page:
     ==> http://www.tju.edu/tju/dis/virus/

     University  of  Nebraska-Lincoln  -  Understanding  Computer
     Viruses Pages:
     ==> http://www.unl.edu/security/viruses/

     ~~~

     What Kind of Damage Can Computer Viruses Do?

     The  damage  a  computer virus can inflict  on  your  system
     depends  on  many things, including  how  sophisticated  the
     virus  is.  Here is a short listing of the types  of  damage
     viruses  can do to your computer -- they can really hit  you
     where it hurts:

     -    Some  viruses can delete or change files. Some  viruses
          will  delete  all of your documents, or  even  reformat
          your hard drive, making your computer unusable.

     -    Some viruses can release confidential information  like
          credit card information, account numbers, and passwords
          by emailing it to random email addresses or the address
          of the virus writer.

     -    Some viruses can slow down your system dramatically.

     -    Some viruses plant monitoring software or change secur-
          ity settings that allow hackers to enter your  computer
          without  you knowing about it and steal information  or
          control it.

     Other  viruses,  like the Internet worm that  hit  recently,

     also  can have widespread effects on computer  networks  and
     the Internet.

     ~~~

     Your Computer May Have a Computer Virus If...

     How do you know if you have a computer virus? If you're  not
     running an antivirus program (see the next section), you may
     not know at all since many viruses are benign.

     Some symptoms of a virus infection are:

     -    Your  computer displays strange messages, plays  music,
          or shows odd graphic displays.

     -    Your  computer takes longer to boot up,  operates  more
          slowly than usual, and takes longer to start programs.

     -    Your computer has much less memory or hard drive  space
          available.

     Some  legitimate software can cause these symptoms, so  *the
     only  way you can be sure your computer is virus-free is  to
     regularly scan it for viruses using antivirus software*.

     ~~~

     How Can You Protect Your Computer From Viruses?

     As we've indicated, you need antivirus software to be  safe.
     You should consider the cost of the software as part of  the
     purchase of your computer -- it's that important.

     Once you've installed the antivirus software, you will  need
     to  download regular updates that tells the antivirus  soft-
     ware  about  new viruses and how to detect  them.  Most  an-
     tivirus  software comes with a year's worth of updates,  and
     you  can  usually set the software to  either  automatically
     download  the updates, or display a reminder for you  to  do
     so.

     This  is vital since there are over 500 new viruses  discov-
     ered each month!

     Norton AntiVirus and McAfee VirusScan are the two best-known
     antivirus  programs  for  the  Microsoft  Windows  operating
     systems. For Macintosh users, Norton AntiVirus and  McAfee's
     Virex for Macintosh provide protection. For Linux users, try
     RAV AntiVirus.

     While  the  vast majority of viruses are written  to  infect
     Windows-based  systems,  Macintosh and  Linux  users  should
     still also have virus protection.

     All  antivirus software lets you scan the computer's  memory
     and hard drive for viruses. Depending on the software  pack-
     age,  the  antivirus  program may also be  able  to  protect
     against:

     - Incoming emails and email attachments with viruses.

     - Viruses received through instant messaging, such as ICQ.

     - Infected downloaded files, before you open the file.


     -  Attacks  against  your computer  from  outside  (firewall
     software).

     If you are strapped for cash, AVG Anti-Virus provides a free
     version of its antivirus program and free updates for  Wind-
     ows-based  computers.  And  if you just want  to  scan  your
     computer  for viruses for free *right now*, check out  Trend
     Micro's free online virus scan and McAfee FreeScan.

     More information about antivirus software:

     Norton AntiVirus:
     ==> http://www.symantec.com/nav/

     McAfee VirusScan:
     ==> http://www.mcafee.com/myapps/antivirus.asp

     Virex for Macintosh:
     ==> http://www.mcafeeb2b.com/products/virex/default.asp

     RAV Anti-Virus (Linux):
     ==> http://www.ravantivirus.com/

     AVG Anti-Virus (free version available!):
     ==> http://www.grisoft.com/

     Trend  Micro's  free online virus  scan  (requires  Internet
     Explorer  version 4.0 or later or Netscape version  3.01  or
     later):
     ==> http://housecall.antivirus.com/housecall/start_corp.asp

     McAfee's FreeScan (requires Microsoft Windows and IE 5.0  or
     later):
     ==> http://www.mcafee.com/myapps/mfs/default.asp

     ~~~
     How Can Your Computer Catch a Virus?

     There are only two ways for your computer to get a virus:

      1.  You load the virus onto your computer through an infec-
          ted floppy, CD-ROM, or other storage medium.

      2.  The  virus arrives by a downloaded file, email  attach-
          ment, or other method from the Internet or a network.

     At  this point, an infected file is on your computer's  hard
     drive. But remember, your computer will only become infected
     if you launch or view the file, or run the infected program.

     So an important tip is to always scan new files for  viruses
     before you use them.

     Take  these  precautions  when working with  files  and  the
     Internet:

     -    Before  you load a file or install software  onto  your
          computer  from  a floppy disk or CD-ROM, use  your  an-
          tivirus program to scan the floppy or CD.

     -    If  you receive an email attachment from an  unfamiliar
          email address, or an attachment you were not expecting,
          either scan it or delete it (preferred).

     -    If  you  receive an email attachment from  someone  you
          know, and your antivirus program does not automatically

          scan incoming emails, save the attachment to your  hard
          drive  and  scan it with the  antivirus  program.  Your
          friend  or colleague's computer may be infected with  a
          virus.

     -    When  you download software from the Internet, be  sure
          to  download it from the software company's site  or  a
          recognized    download   site    (    http://downloads-
          zdnet.com.com/     ,     http://www.download.com     or
          http://www.tucows.com  for example). Download the  file
          to  your  hard drive and scan it using  your  antivirus
          program before you run or decompress it.

     -    If someone sends you a 'joke' file or electronic greet-
          ing card that you must launch to view, be very wary.

     -    Don't use Outlook or Outlook Express as your email pro-
          gram.  More viruses are spread from the security  holes
          in Outlook than any other email program.

     Many experts now feel that the dangers of being infected  by
     a  virus  are so great that it just  isn't  worth  receiving
     email  attachments. You can set your email program  to  stop
     accepting them.

     More virus prevention tips are available at:
     ==> http://www.mcafee.com/anti-virus/virus_tips.asp

     News about the latest virus threats are available at:
     ==> http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/
     ==> http://www.mcafee.com/anti-virus/default.asp

     ~~~


     When a Virus Isn't a Virus: Hoaxes and Chain Emails

     Every day, we receive forwarded emails from concerned  read-
     ers or friends telling us about a new, super-dangerous virus
     that's unlike anything the Internet has seen before.

     Unfortunately,  99% of the time, these forwarded emails  are
     hoaxes.

     In  fact,  most real viruses don't come  with  email  alerts
     (except  from  your  antivirus  software  company),  whereas
     almost all these other virus emails are hoaxes.

     Much  like urban legends, these hoaxes get sent  around  be-
     cause  they sound so real. But like chain letters,  you  can
     stop  the hoaxes at the source. Just research the  following
     sites, make sure the email is a hoax, and then delete it.

     More information about virus hoaxes:

     HOAXBUSTERS Home Page
     ==> http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/

     Symantec Security Response - Hoax Page:
     ==> http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html

     VMyths.com
     ==> http://www.vmyths.com/

     Urban Legends Reference Pages: Computers (Viruses):
     ==> http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/virus.htm


     ~~~

     That's it for now. Have a safe, virus-free month.

     - Please Check Out These Offers - They Keep ScamBusters Free
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