E-mail safety rules!

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on May 15, 2000

Question

Since e-mail viruses are becoming so common, what are the rules for safety when it comes to e-mail? It seems just having anti-virus software is not enough anymore!

-Dan

Answer

This question was answered on May 15, 2000. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.


A computer virus is nothing more than a computer program that someone wrote with the purpose of causing mischief or destruction The difference today, is that the Internet allows these “programs” to be spread around the world in a matter of hours via e-mail It is the responsibility of all of us “Netizens” to learn what we can do to limit the spread of these programs The “cyber-idiots” that write viruses have the upper hand, because they can test their new creations with the most current anti-virus programs to make sure that they can’t be detected They also prey on the gullibility and curiosity of millions of users The recent outbreak of the “LoveBug” and its dozens of variants could have been prevented with one simple rule: Don’t open file attachments to an e-mail message (you can’t contract these viruses by simply reading the message), even if it is from someone you know, unless you know exactly what the attached file contains Not a single one of the millions of computers would have been infected if this rule had been followed In addition to updating your anti-virus program at least once a month, here are a few more tips:

-Until recently, Macro viruses were the most prominent type Holding the Shift key down while opening Microsoft Word and Excel file attachments will disable macro viruses that may be lurking inside

-The current strain of Visual Basic Scripting (VBS) viruses can be identified by the file extension of *.vbs Rarely will there be a situation where you will receive a legitimate file with this extension, so never open a *.vbs file

-Removing the Windows Scripting Host from Windows 95/98 will remove the programs necessary for a VBScript to run Most home users do not need this feature installed on their systems, while some corporate users may If you are on a company network, check with your system administrator first To remove WSH from Windows 95/98 click on Start/Settings/Control Panel and double-click on the Add/Remove Programs icon Click on the Windows Setup tab then double-click on the Accessories group When the accessories box opens, scroll down to the bottom and remove the checkmark from the Windows Scripting Host box, then click on “Ok” at the bottom If you find that you needed this feature installed for a program, you can re-install it by simply putting the checkmark back in.

-If you are using Microsoft Outlook (most e-mail viruses are written for it), check with the Microsoft website monthly for any security updates or patches at http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/

-Before opening any file attachments, e-mail the sender inquiring as to the contents and if they in fact sent it on purpose Many viruses automatically send themselves to everyone in your address book so that it looks like a “friendly” message.

-BE PARANOID; TRUST NO ONE!

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on May 15, 2000

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