Virus Alert!

The I Love You virus was the most widespread, costly virus in computing history.  Easily surpassing the Trojan Horse and Melissa viruses, I Love You affected some 50 million e-mail accounts, 10 million PC’s, and cost upwards of $15 billion dollars in lost productivity and eradication costs.

The virus was particularly insidious and destructive.  Surprised Windows users that opened a “Love Letter” e-mail attachment with a “.vbs” suffix suddenly found that I Love You used their e-mail address books to replicate and distribute itself,  that their media files (images, video, and sounds) had been renamed, and that many of their passwords had been sent to a website in the Philippines, courtesy of the virus.  Fortunately, several arrests have been made in the Philippines, but the damage had been done.

Already, Lloyd’s of London is calling e-commerce the new risk of the 21st century and is planning “Computer Virus Insurance”.  However, businesses can do a lot more to protect themselves and their IT investments than just buy insurance.  By investing in a well-known anti-virus software package, businesses can initiate the process of virus protection and create their own insurance.  Just buying the software is not enough, though.  Virus protection is an ongoing struggle that must be waged every day.   

Anti-virus software rarely discovers viruses it has never seen before; rather it uses something called “virus definitions” to detect viruses.  When a new virus is discovered, the anti-virus software companies provide free updates to their virus definitions that allow your version of the software to detect and eradicate that virus.  This is why I Love You was so devastating – none of the anti-virus software packages knew what it was until it was too late. 

I Love You, despite being “cured”, is still around and that is why fighting viruses is an ongoing affair. People still inadvertently open the attachment and send the virus all over the world.  It has also been mimicked, copied, and transformed into several new forms.  One such form is designed to look just like an e-mail from Symantec, the makers of Norton Anti-Virus.  Nevertheless, these copycat viruses have similar characteristics to I Love You that allow the current virus definitions to catch many of them.  This is why constant updates of your virus definitions are so critical.

To arm yourself in the battle against computer viruses, your best bet is to invest in a leading anti-virus product.  The big name brands are Symantec’s Norton Anti-Virus (which can be bought separately or as part of the Norton System Works suite), Computer Associates’ InoculateIT, and Network Associates’ McAfee VirusScan.  Each one of these products offers free updates to their virus definitions over the web as well as a variety of functions and specialized products for network support.  For under a thousand dollars (e.g. InoculateIT for 25 users) you can protect your entire network from virus attacks.

There are other steps you can take to protect yourself and your business from viruses.  For one thing, many of the e-mail viruses are spread through attachments.  Attachments are how programs, media, documents, and other files are sent through e-mail.  If you ever receive an attachment to an e-mail that you are not expecting or cannot identify, your best bet is not to open it. 

Ultimately, only you can prevent virus attacks.  By updating your virus definitions frequently and performing regularly scheduled scans of your entire network, you can protect your business from the kind of damage viruses cause.  And if you know you have a virus and don’t know what to do, call computer professionals like Beachwood Systems for help.           



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