Can I still get infected with a virus?

Question

In your weekly advice column for July 21 2005 ("Aren't I Protected?") you stated: "The mistake that you likely made was clicking on a link in an e-mail that sounded like it was an official message from a financial institute. The minute you clicked on it, you were sent to a rogue website that not only asked you to give up personal information but also installed this very dangerous Trojan on your computer.".

Are you saying that on a fully patched up-to-date system it is currently possible to become infected simply by clicking on a link?

Is this actually happening or is it mainly a theoretical concern? How much damage could an attack via this route do? Do you know of any examples?

Is this a bug or a feature? Are there any settings that would eliminate this vulnerability? Would switching to a different (non IE) browser eliminate this vulnerability?

Thanks for your website and show!

MYRON

(Listener since 0BA (Before Adam))

Answer

This question was answered on September 15, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

You have to understand that Anti-Virus software like Norton and McAfee protects you from KNOWN viruses There is a little over 80,000 different viruses that have been decoded and identified for PCs And I wouldn't be suprised if we hit the 100,000 mark by the end year There are new unknown viruses poping up almost every day so you have be careful when opening e-mails from unknown users especially spam By simply opening or reading an e-mail the attachment is opened and the virus is unleashed I could go on and on about infamous viruses like Melissa, Concept, and DMV, but i'd run out of room to type I'll at least tell you about Nuclear, which as it names suggest is very destructive It spreads to computers by forcing you to save it as a document and then started replicating itself to other programs Then on April 5 the virus deleted the Command.com and zeroed out MsDOS.sys and IO.sys which are the three core programs for DOS and Windows(which run on top of DOS) This means your computer couldn't even start up because all the instructions for booting up were overridden! And who can forget the Love Bug virus a.k.a the ILOVEYOU worm you get an e-mail with the words ILOVEYOU in the subject line and without second thought you open it Thus allowing a worm to work it's way into your Outlook Express address books and completely fill it with jibberish But wait it gets worse The Love Bug then scans your PC for every UserID and Password in memory and e-mails this information to it's creator Finally it fills your hard drive with copies of itself as numerous file types like MP3 and JPEG.

Anyway before i go completely off track about other viruses here are some tips about protecting yourself

Get Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software I recommend Norton or McAfee Keep it updated, most will update automaticly if you allow it And scan your computer at least once a month.

NEVER OPEN E-MAILS FROM PEOPLE YOU DON'T KNOW!! PERIOD!!

Never download from the Internet unless you have anti-virus software THAT IS UP-TO-DATE

Disable your browser's ability to handle Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX Many viruses come from Java sites and attack the moment you open the page You can change it back anytime you want too.

Stay current Newspapers, computer mags, and cnet.com inform people of recently discovered viruses (and Data Doctors of course!!)

BACK UP EVERYTHING!! CDs, DVDs, flash drives, ZIP drives, floppy disk, whatever you use BACK UP EVERYTHING!!

Don't use pirated software It's illegal and dangerious

Scan packaged software before installing There have times when companies inadvertently distributed virus on their products.

Avoid websites that "Cater" to hackers The Internet version of a mousetrap so to speak.

Beware of shareware without documentation If they don't tell you what it is or how to use it don't run it Tucows and PC Magazine are good shareware sites.

Don't visit websites with 'questionable' content View porn at your own risk!

Delete Cookies In IE there's a Delete Cookies button in Tools, Internet Options.

There!!

I think i've said enough.

If you need more info on viruses than what Data Doctors can provide there are other sites like virusbtn.com,

f-secure.com, antivirus.com, and vmiths.com.

I hope I've answered all you questions and if you have more I can write another encyclopedia for ya ;)

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Author

Posted by Nathan of Chandler-Gilbert Community College on September 15, 2005