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June 26, 2000
Keeping Your Computer Healthy
Virus protection is simple, painless and necessary

Every month or so it seems there's a new virus roaming around the Internet infecting computers. First it was "Melissa," then the "Love Bug," and now there is the "Resume Worm." And if there isn't a new virus, there's a hoax e-mail warning the cyber-community of some non-existent virus which supposedly destroys your hard drive.

In this mess of real alerts and chain-mail hoaxes, it's difficult to know what to do to keep your computers safe. Luckily, it it's not as hard as it seems. To actively protect your computers against viruses, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Install and run anti-virus software on your computers.
  • Set the software to scan on start-up, when disks are inserted and when files are downloaded.
  • Check for software updates frequently . Usually updates can be downloaded for free from the software company's home page.
  • Buy new versions of the software as they are released.
  • Make it a policy to not open e-mail attachments from unfamiliar senders.
  • Alert all employees when a new e-mail virus is spreading. Make sure they know the file names of infected attachments (for example, the IBM anti-virus Web site says the Resume Worm is being transferred through files titled "Resume.A" or "Melissa.BG").
The two most common ways to get a computer virus are by opening an infected file from a disk or downloading and opening a file from the Web or e-mail. By following the previous guidelines, you will most likely stay virus-free.

If You Think You Have a Virus
If something is wrong with your computer, and you think you have a virus, don't panic. The worst thing you can do is start deleting files or reformatting the hard drive. Stay calm, and run a virus check.

  • Reboot the computer from an up-to-date anti-virus software disk. (These come along with instructions in anti-virus software packages.)
  • Use the software to scan the system for viruses.
  • If you have good anti-virus software and a virus is detected, the software will alert you to the steps you need to take to solve the problem. Most likely it will disinfect or delete the suspect file.
  • Keep in mind most anti-virus software will detect common viruses as well as suspicious virus-like activity. If no virus is detected, there is only a small chance you could have an unknown virus. If you are still concerned, try the IBM anti-virus site for help.
Remember, computer viruses can be like the common cold: anything that comes in contact with the infected computer could end up with the virus too. That means after you have cleaned the virus from an infected machine, you then have to virus check all other computers and disks that may have come in contact with the virus.

It isn't the end of the world if you get a virus. All your important information should be backed up on disks or CDs as a matter of course. It is relatively simple to keep your computers safe, but you have to be smart and prepared.

For more information, Symantec AntiVirus Research Center at http://www.sarc.com/ keeps an updated list of the top virus threats and a complete virus encyclopedia to help you diagnose and treat individual viruses. IBM AntiVirus Online at http://www.av.ibm.com/index.html has an extensive virus education center and updated lists of current viruses and hoaxes.

- by Julia M. Duncan