Tip of the month by Chris Cochrane
Doctor is my computer sick?

When a computer virus was first suggested back in the late 1980s I thought it was some form of sick joke, after all this is a mechanical / electrical device – how could it get sick?  Well fifteen years on there is no doubt about the ability of computers to get infected with viruses.

Computer viruses, although not called that at the time, were first theorised in 1949.  However it was not until 1988 that the first major virus spread throughout the PC world (not the first computer virus but one of the first widespread ones).  Within two years Norton antivirus was created and a whole new industry was born (computer virus protection).  Computer users today are still funding that industry.

Some Do's and Dont's to avoid computer viruses.

It’s hard to say whether installing and maintaining antivirus software should be your first or last antivirus strategy.  I’ll put it first but it should not be relied upon to protect you.  Just as having had a flu injection you wouldn’t go and stand naked in freezing rain conditions – don’t just rely on the software to protect you.

Do install antivirus software and keep it up to date.

Don’t open email from unexpected sources.  Be especially careful of files with .exe extension but equally careful where very long file names have been used.  These long names have on occasions been used to hide the true file type.

Do keep your backups up to date (I told you that three months ago)

Don’t use the “auto preview” option on Outlook or Outlook Express.  This can cause the attachments to automatically open.

Do be a good netizen (net citizen).  Don’t send attachments unless you are sure they are virus free.

Do remember that not all virus warnings are true, but also remember that not all virus warnings are hoaxes either.

Do upgrade to service pack 2 if you are using windows XP. Generally a service pack from Microsoft is provided to fix a few bugs.  Win XP service pack 2 is probably the most inaptly named software release ever.  It is actually a fundamental change to the way Win XP works from the point of view of the internet.  Its in-built protection against virus attack seems a great leap forward.

Do install antivirus software and keep it up to date using (for example with Norton) the “live update” options.  (As I said, this might be the first or the last line of defence – It is important – so I’ve said it twice).

And finally be aware of the latest (expensive) version of a virus that having installed itself on your computer is programmed to phone 1900 numbers running up significant toll bills, amounts as high as $400 have been recorded

If you want to comment or suggest a topic for ‘tip of the month’, contact Chris on email cc@printcost.com


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