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viruses, trojans and worms, oh my

a new speed record was created and it wasn't the fastest plane, or the fastest car. it did not break any record of the physical world, but managed to make international headlines. the record that was broken was from the fastest spreading e-mail worm thus far, a.k.a. "blaster."
recently a new batch of worms and other cyber villains made banner headlines. sobig, blaster and love bug have incited fear and devastation in business and personal computer users. the backbone to the country's economic engine has been attacked through security holes in the microsoft windows operating systems.

the villains:
if you are like most business professionals, you may not have time to learn all the technical jargon that it specialists use today to describe internet security. however, if understanding certain terms will help you protect your business infrastructure, it would be wise to indulge in a little bit of education.

basically there are three types of intruders lurking in the cyber world: the virus, the trojan and the worm. the virus is the most heinous of these virtual villains. like the biological virus, it can spread on its own power and attach itself to some entity inside the host, specifically to programs (or executables) in your computer. the result of a virus infection can be as harmless as making icons move on your screen just before you can click on them or as malicious as erasing all the files on your hard drive.

trojans, a favorite tool of hackers, are programs that cannot spread on their own, but must be placed on the host computer manually. in most cases they are placed on the host computer via e-mail when the recipient clicks on an attached file. trojans are .used to gain access to your computer network and from there are directed to do whatever the hacker wishes. once a trojan is installed on your machine, a hacker gains control of programs, such as symantec's pc anywhere, and pervasive damage is the result.

the third of these reckless rogues is the worm. once a worm is activated on a network it can spread from machine to machine on its own power. unlike a virus, a worm needs some type of activation to wreak havoc. usually an e-mail recipient who clicks on an attached file and in some rare cases, someone previewing e-mail releases it into the computer.

protection from infection:
first, never open an unexpected file from anyone. undoubtedly, this is how 90 percent of the worms make it into pcs around the world. if you receive an unexpected e-mail attachment from anyone, check with the sender to make sure that they intentionally sent you the file. many worms and viruses can be forwarded to address book listings without the sender's knowledge.

second, install anti-virus and firewall software packages on your computer and
network, and keep these programs up to date. a firewall will help manage malicious programs, especially trojans, to greatly decrease the chance that they will gain control of your machine. most firewall programs will prompt you if an unknown program tries to access your network or connect with the internet.

third, use critical updates that microsoft automatically sends to windows users. unless there is a company policy saying otherwise, you should install these updates from microsoft. if you have any concerns call your technician for some guidance.
not taking simple steps to protect yourself can result in you becoming a virtual victim, as well as spreading computer viruses to others. by being cautious in opening unexpected files, keeping your antivirus and firewall software up to date and installing critical windows patches, you can protect your hardware and work products.

as seen in hudson valley business journal september 25, 2003

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