I'm talking about computer bugs. Viruses. I receive about 150-200 e-mails each day - sometimes over 1,500 in a week, and at least one of those contains a virus. Almost every virus comes from somebody I know, or have sent an e-mail to at one time or another. I end up in their contact list, and when they get a virus, it mails itself to me. Notice I said 'it mails itself to me'. Because that's the way most viruses spread; they're often designed to e-mail copies of themselves to everyone on your contact list. Usually without your knowledge. And fast. Viruses like to travel - they make Lewis and Clark look like couch potatoes. In one of our polls here on MetalBuilding.com, 70% of you claimed to have been infected at one time or another.
I have several lines of defense. While I receive viruses on a regular basis, I can't remember when I was last infected with one. Here's why.
First, and most important, is a little knowledge, common sense and skepticism. You will most likely receive viruses by e-mail, and it will be unleashed when you double-click on an attachment. Therefore, any e-mail with an attachment is cause for concern. The most common phrases uttered before double-clicking on an attachment and unleashing a virus are:
I wonder what this is?
I wonder who this is from?
I know this person, so this must be safe...
If you're thinking like this and you get a virus, well... you deserve it. Time for a little attitude adjustment. Viruses probably will come from someone you know, but that doesn't mean they did it on purpose (see paragraph 1). I delete all attachments from senders I don't recognize. Period. Curiosity killed the cat, and it also spread the virus. I'm not curious. If it was something important, then it can be resent later. I can wait.
Before I do open attachments, I scan them. All of them. Without fail. It's not worth the risk to skip this step, and it takes only seconds. Which brings us to line of defense number 2: A decent virus scanner/detection software. I know some techies who abhor them (they slow down the machine, they cause crashes, etc.) and that can be true, but there are ways to work around it and minimize the effects. At installation, most virus scanners will load your computer up like a maximum security prison. It's not necessary if you use a little common sense. I don't need to scan every file on my machine every time I Open, Copy, Move, Paste or View it. I don't want to scan every web page I view. I turn most of that stuff off, so the performance of my machine remains largely unaffected.
Often, I will leave my e-mail open and allow the software to automatically scan for viruses as mail is downloaded. I set up an automatic e-mail which, in case of virus detection, will notify the sender that I have received from them a virus. Most often, that gets ignored. Many times they'll fix it, but other times they won't and I receive a daily copy, each time they boot their computer. I've even had to ban a few of the clueless from my mail server. Hey, if I get the same virus from you every day for 2 weeks and you fail to acknowledge it or stop it, I don't need to get any more e-mail from you. Other times, I'll get something like this: I DID NOT SEND YOU A VIRUS! I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE!?!?!
That's what I get for being a nice guy. Hey, I didn't say you sent it on purpose, but it is what it is. I received a virus, and you sent it. By letting you know, I'm giving you the opportunity to check your system and remove it before more damage is done. Often, that leads to this: WHAT SHOULD I DO? HOW DO I GET RID OF THIS VIRUS? Well, you can start by NOT SHOUTING AT ME! (I really hate CAPS LOCK, but thats a story for another time. This is 2002 - if you're typing impaired, get some software, practice, and turn off the CAPS LOCK!). Now where was I?
Virus removal. McAfee and Norton both make effective software which you can even obtain online, but you'd have been better off to have it in place prior to infection. There are many others available too - just check out Amazon.com. Your local computer store can also help you out, or see if the neighbor has a teenager around. Just as with human viruses, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use some common sense when you open attachments, be wary and suspicious and scan them first. If you need to satisfy your curiosity, go digging in the sofa cushions. It's safer. And if someone tells you that you sent them a virus, play nice. They may be right. And if you get a virus from someone, chances are, they didn't do it on purpose and they probably didn't even realize they did it. You'll be doing them a service to let them know... nicely. I'll try not to bug you if you try not to bug me. Deal?
E-Mail virus problems have spread throughout corporate America like a wildfire over the past couple of years. It will be a great day when our e-mail clients and servers can differentiate between clean e-mails, and those that are infected.
Odd, but I've found that I've received less viruses (or is that virii?) in the last six months than at any other time since I started using E-mail. I hope that's a trend that continues.
Whilst I think this is a great article and am thinking of recommending it to many others, there is one point that I think is worth making. A number of the newer viruses that are around actually spoof the from email address and so simply replying to the sender and telling them they have a virus may cause unnecessary panic. It's worth checking the anti virus websites to see if the virus you found in an email spoofs addresses or not before sending an email off to the address in the from feild.
I get numerous calls from staff from automated virus detection on mail servers telling them they have been infected with a virus and are sending it to people, and not one (so far) has turned out to be true.
So again, great article, but just don't be too insistant that the person in the From field of an email actually sent you a virus and is therefor infected.