Safer Computing: Everyone’s Responsibility

Article by Emmett Crawley
Originally published in a different format

Guarding Against Computer Viruses

A few minutes of prevention can help you avoid hours of frustration from a computer virus attack. Installing antivirus software is the first step to safeguarding yourself from many of the viruses, infectious worms, and Trojan horses that occur frequently.

Where can you obtain antivirus software? OIT site-licenses VirusScan for Windows and Virex for Macintosh, as well as other antivirus software. OSU students, faculty, and staff with a valid OSU Internet username can download this software from the Software Downloads Web site. Installation instructions are included on the Web distribution pages; however, if you have problems downloading any of the software or have questions regarding distribution of the software, contact the OIT Technology Support Center / help desk at 8help@osu.edu or call 688-HELP.

You can keep up to date on new antivirus software by subscribing to the slicnews mailing list (send an e-mail message to slicnews@lists.uts.ohio-state.edu and in the body of the message type only: subscribe slicnews first name last name) or the oit.site-license newsgroup. Chuck Sechler, OIT’s site license software coordinator, posts announcements via these methods about enhancements to existing antivirus software (usually referred to as DAT or SuperDAT files) and announces new files and programs site-licensed by OIT. One recent posting, for example, announced that OIT has obtain distribution rights to a series of enhancements and corrections to VirusScan version 4.5.1 Service Pack 1 for Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP.

OIT’s help desk staff and the online documentation, however, indicate that simply having antivirus software is not enough to protect your computer from infection. They stress that in order to stay protected, you must update your antivirus software on a regular schedule (weekly or biweekly). Weekly, you can update your DAT files manually from Software To Go, or you can set up your VirusScan software to automatically download DAT or SuperDAT files from OIT’s FTP server. Use the online instructions for configuring VirusScan for automatic updating or contact the help desk if you need assistance.

Antivirus software prevents many viruses from entering an organization, but it is not foolproof. You can reduce your chances of computer virus infections in other ways too. Max Treboni, a lead tech support specialist in the Technology Support Center, says users share the responsibility of ensuring that their computers are virus free, and offers the following tips for safer computing:

  • Treat any e-mail attachments you weren’t expecting with suspicion, even if it comes from someone you know.
  • Do not run, download or forward any unsolicited attachments, executables, documents, spreadsheets, etc. Anything that runs on your computer should be scanned for viruses first.
  • Do not download executables or documents from unknown Internet sources, which are often used to spread computer viruses, and scan for viruses on downloaded files even from trusted sources.
  • Use Rich Text Format instead of DOC files, which can harbor viruses. You can automatically save all of your Word documents as RTF by selecting Tools, Options, Save and choosing Rich Text Format as the default format from the drop down menu.
  • Do not open any files with a double file extension, e.g., iamavirus.txt.vbs.
  • Although JPG, GIF, and MP3 files cannot be infected with a virus, viruses can be disguised as these file types. Be as suspicious of jokes, pictures, graphics, screensavers and movie files as other file types.
  • Check with the makers of your e-mail program for recent patches and security updates to the software.
  • If in doubt, always ask your system administrator or the help desk for advice; do not open the e-mail attachment.
  • If you think you have been infected with a virus, inform your system administrator and the Help Desk immediately.
  • Send virus warnings or hoaxes to the Help Desk to confirm whether or not they are genuine; also check the Hoaxbusters Web site.
  • If you work at home, follow the same procedures as you do at the office.

The Technology Support Center’s online help desk and OIT’s online documentation also provide answers and how-to information regarding computer hardware and software, Internet connectivity, and related topics. Visit the online help desk and online OIT documentation. Recent additions to the help desk Web pages include information on how to reduce your OSU mail spool, configuring Yahoo mail to directly check your OSU e-mail, and a Windows XP Primer.