Mon, 30 Oct 2000

Get original antivirus, keep it updated

When IBM launched its Palm V-based WorkPad 3x at a news conference some time in May, a journalist asked about the possibility of a virus attack.

At that time, it was unthinkable that anybody would write a virus for a personal digital assistant (PDA). But as it turned out, a Trojan Horse was found last month in the Palm operating system.

A Trojan Horse is a malicious program disguised as a benign one, such as game shareware. The Liberty Trojan Horse was then followed by other viruses for the same operating system.

So even handheld computers are also prone to viruses.

It is a sad fact of life. The world is full of sick people, with narcissists who simply do not know a better way to get recognition and admiration from others than to write computer viruses. Many write viruses, Trojan Horses and worms that create so much trouble for people they do not know or will ever meet.

Even knowledgeable computer users suffer from terrible embarrassments at one time or another as they have allowed their computers to be invaded by a virus and then spread it unknowingly to other people listed in their address book.

According to a report from last week, Veritas, a data storage software company, had an extremely embarrassing moment when they discovered that the CD-ROMs they distributed to attendees at their recent seminar in Las Vegas were infected with the Love Bug virus.

Luckily, it was found in time before any important guests had a chance to use the CD-ROM on their notebook.

Since viruses became a common computer problem in the early 1990s, more than a few computer users have lost their data -- and have shed tears -- over the virus attacks.

Needless to say, all over the world countless man-hours have been wasted trying to put computers back into operation after they have been hit by viruses.

Clearly, fixing a virus-infected PC is by no means a productive way of using one's time.

Therefore, if you plan to buy only one single original computer program this year, it should be an antivirus program.

You can buy from McAffee (, Symantec ( or any of the other leading antivirus software makers.

Another option is to subscribe to an online virus protection -- if you happen to be a frequent Internet user.

McAffee, for example, offers a service that reflects how we may be using software in the near future.

While staying connected to the Internet, McAfee's online clinic scans your hard disks for viruses. If it finds one, it will clean it.

The good thing is the scanning process uses the latest virus definitions -- a database of viruses that they have been discovered from all over the world.

The bad thing is it may cost a lot if you do not have an always-on connection to the Internet -- such as KabelVision's cable-TV network.

At any rate, you can buy original antivirus software and download updated virus definitions frequently.

However, keep in mind that having a constantly updated antivirus program is only half the measure you need to take to protect your computer and your data.

The other half involves observing the following rules:

1. Never open an e-mail attachment you are not sure about. Ask the sender whether he intended to send the attachment to you.

2. Be extremely suspicious with attachments ending in .EXE, .VBX, .VBS and .TXT. Be also wary with attachments with the word "Free" in their names.

3. Scan other people's diskettes and files with your antivirus program before using them.

4. Most importantly, backup your important data regularly. (Zatni Arbi)