By George Mauzy
Everyone with a computer dreads that increasingly frequent e-mail message from conscientious colleagues and friends with a subject line something like, "Urgent - virus alert."
Unfortunately, these messages have become a staple of today's computer-driven society. But folks at Ohio University's Communication Network Services say with proper prevention and a little common sense, you can minimize your risk.
CNS Technical Support Analyst Josh Thomas says Nimda, the latest e-mail virus to plague computer users, is one of the most clever to come along because it spreads five different ways. Computers can become infected with the virus, described as a worm because it is self-replicating, when an infected e-mail attachment is opened, much like previous worms. Users also can infect their computers by browsing an infected Web site, having shared folders on the network that aren't password-protected or having experienced the Code Red virus that preceded it. The worm also finds and infects unprotected Microsoft IIS Web servers.
"Always keep your anti-virus software updated and never open an attachment you weren't expecting," Thomas stresses. "These attachments are always given names that pique your curiosity so that you open them." Common examples: attachments containing the name of tennis star Anna Kournikova or those offering free merchandise.
CNS offers faculty, staff and students the latest McAfee anti-virus programs on its Web site at www.cns.ohiou.edu/software/. The software can be downloaded free of charge and is preconfigured to update automatically. Users also should use this software to perform a scan of their files on a regular basis.
"When you hear that a new virus is going around, take steps to learn about it on your own," Thomas advises. "Don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. Search the CNS Web site or others like it to find out what you can do to be proactive and protect your computer."
For more information, contact CNS at 593-1222, check the Web at www.cns.ohiou.edu/ or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.