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
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
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
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
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:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln - Understanding Computer
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
Other viruses, like the Internet worm that hit recently,
also can have widespread effects on computer networks and
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
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
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
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
- 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
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:
Virex for Macintosh:
RAV Anti-Virus (Linux):
AVG Anti-Virus (free version available!):
Trend Micro's free online virus scan (requires Internet
Explorer version 4.0 or later or Netscape version 3.01 or
McAfee's FreeScan (requires Microsoft Windows and IE 5.0 or
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
- 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
- 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
More virus prevention tips are available at:
News about the latest virus threats are available at:
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
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
Symantec Security Response - Hoax Page:
Urban Legends Reference Pages: Computers (Viruses):
That's it for now. Have a safe, virus-free month.
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