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Preventing computer viruses
How and why to minimise the chances of being infected.
Article by J.P.Lee

There are several types of computer virus that can be spread via email. Viewing the email or opening the attachment may infect your machine. If you use email please read on to find out how to protect your PC.

If virus infection doesn't worry you then maybe this will;
  • UK ISPs BlueYonder and Demon have said that they may suspend or terminate internet access for any of it's customers who have become infected with the 'code red' or 'nimda' virus.
  • Companies can prosecute you for negligence if your virus infected machine attacks their network.
Attachments whose name ends in .hta, .vbs , .exe , .scr , .bat , .com , .pif and .lnk are all executable and may be a virus so don't run or open them unless you know what they are, especially if you don't know who sent them.
An email arriving with an attachment whose name ends in any of the above should not be opened
They will usually have an enticing subject line that urges you to open the attached file - just don't do it. Do not run the attached file.
(The Sircam virus arrives disguised as an 'innocent' MS office document )
The Redesis worm arrives attached to email and claims to be a virus patch from Microsoft - Microsoft never send out patches. Always be suspicious and if in doubt, simply delete the email.

If the email appears to come from a friend, email them back and ask them what the attachment is, they might not know, their computer may already be infected and trying to spread it to you.

Follow these tips to decrease the chance of being hit by an email borne virus or worm
  1. Reveal hidden extensions Don't be fooled by "readme.txt.exe"
    Open Windows Explorer
    select from the menu: Tools -> Folder Options
    Select the 'View' tab
    Make sure that the checkbox labeled "Hide file extensions for known file types" is NOT checked. then click the 'Like Current Folder' button then'OK'

  2. Set up the Restricted Internet zone
    Open Internet Explorer
    select from the menu: Tools -> Internet Option
    select the Security tab
    select 'Restricted Sites' and click 'Custom Level'
    Make sure that everything listed is set to 'Disable'

  3. Move Emails into restricted zone
    From the menu in MS outlook choose tools -> options
    select the 'security' tab
    Set Security Zones to 'Restricted sites zone'.
    This will disable certain virus code sent in emails and MS outlook will show a warning if there is executable code hidden in any email; a mesage will popup
    saying: 'An ActiveX control on this page is not safe'
    This will also stop those emails that open windows to send you to web sites you didn't ask to go to!

  4. Disable code in outbound email
    In MS outlook choose tools -> options
    select the 'send' tab
    Change your 'Mail Sending Format' and your 'News sending Format' to plain text. This disables some of the email formating capabilities (font size colour etc) but will result in email that is smaller,quicker to send and receive,
    The virus can't hide in plaintext.

  5. Check for signature virus
    In MS outlook choose tools -> options select the 'signatures' tab Unless you have added any, there should be no signatures listed. If there is, it could be a virus that you are spreading.
    (Several virii transfers themselves to other hosts via the signature sent with every email or news posting you send)

  6. Stop the (now common) Nimda virus launching OE and infecting you from a webpage
    Open Windows Explorer
    Select View -> Folder options
    Select the 'File Types' tab
    locate the Registered File types 'Outlook Express Mail Message' and 'Outlook Express News Message'
    For both of these entries:
    Click 'Edit' Change the Content_Type (MIME) to 'text/plain'
    In the 'Actions:'list , select 'open' and click 'Edit'
    change the application to 'C:\WINDOWS\notepad.exe'

  7. Be absolutely certain that you have patched IE and Outlook
    Older version <V5.5 are susceptible to the MIME exploit that enables a virus arriving in an email to run without you having to open the attachment or confirm the action.
    IE5.5 and IE6.0 have a similar security flaw (Discovered in November)see Microsoft.com to download the patch which was released on 13 December 2001
    Alternatively you could use Netscape which, although not flawless, is not as perforated as IE.

  8. Install a virus checker program. and set it to auto-update
    Note: Do not rely solely on the virus checker- use some common sense too! - The only way a virus checker can stop YOU from ever opening harmful email attachments is to disallow ALL attachments.

Article by J.P.Lee Bsc(Hons)
Other useful links

OE MIME exploit

Klez removal tool

Redesi worm

Removal of Sircam

About the Sircam Virus.

About the Nimda virus

Removal of code red

About BadTrans trojan

About BadTrans trojan

Goner virus

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