Virus Alert

This Tech Tip will provide you with some education around Computer Worms, what they are exactly and provide you with some tips and tools to protect your computer and recommendations around safe computing.  Information provided in this hot tip can not only be used within the workplace but also for home computing to prevent our PC from being infected with a nasty computer worm.

What is a Computer Worm?

A computer worm is a type of malware that spreads copies of itself from computer to computer. Computer Worms are different from Trojans, though, because they copy themselves without your direct assistance… they robotically worm their way into your email and begin broadcasting copies of themselves without permission. Because they do not require user intervention to reproduce, worms reproduce at an alarming rate. A Computer Worm will cause you a range of damage, from the very mild to the entire loss of your computer data.

Do’s to Avoid Viruses

Prevention is a matter of awareness and vigilance, using appropriate tools to protect your computer, and avoiding contact with unknown disks. It is usually the unwary who will get computer worms. Below is a list of some recommendations for safe computing:

  • Keep your operating system current with the latest patches and updates. The writers of viruses and worms often exploit bugs and security holes in operating systems and other computer software. Software manufacturers frequently release patches for such holes.
  • Install antivirus (virus detection) software. Antivirus programs perform two general functions: They scan for and quarantine or remove viruses in files on disks, and monitor the operation of your computer for virus-like activity. Most antivirus packages contain routines that can perform each kind of task.
  • Keep your virus detection software updated. No matter which antivirus software package you choose, it is important to update it on a regular basis. Viruses are constantly evolving and new ones are always being created, so an out-of-date antivirus program may not detect or protect against the most recent variants. The developers of any reputable antivirus program will issue updates on a regular basis, usually at least once a week.  There will always be an option to automatically update when updates are available to save you manually updating
  • Handle attachments wisely. If you do not know the sender of a message and it includes an attachment, proceed very cautiously! You may want to consider deleting the message without reading it. E-mail attachments are quite often the culprits in many virus attacks. Therefore, if you do decide to open an attachment, be sure that it has been scanned with antivirus software. Never open attachments unless you have verified that they are free of known viruses.
  • Train everyone who uses your computer or network. At a minimum, family members and employees should know not to open unexpected attachments and not to execute software they download from the Internet until they have scanned it for viruses.
  • Back up your files regularly. Computer Worms are one more very good reason to always back up your files. If you back up a file that is already infected with a virus, you can reinfect your system by restoring files from the backup copies. Scan your backup files with virus scanning software before using them.
  • Keep your original application and system disks locked (or write-protected). This will prevent the virus from spreading to your original disks. If you must insert one of your application disks into an unknown computer, lock (write-protect) it first, and unlock your application disk only after verifying that the machine is virus-free.
  • Obtain public-domain software from reputable sources. Check newly downloaded software thoroughly using reputable virus detection software.
  • Quarantine infected systems. If you discover that a system is infected with a virus, immediately isolate it from other systems by unplugging or disconnecting it from the network. Do not allow anyone to move or copy files from it to another system until the system has been disinfected.
  • Use caution when using the Preview Pane in Microsoft Outlook. When the Preview Pane is enabled, there is greater opportunity for a virus to come in through an email.

Don’ts to Avoid Worms

The following activities are among the most common ways of getting computer worms. Minimizing the frequency of these activities will reduce your risk of getting a computer worm.

  • Don’t freely share computer programs and system disks, or download files and software through file-sharing applications such as LimeWire or BitTorrent.
  • Never download executable software from public-access bulletin boards or Web sites.
  • Avoid using your personal disk space (e.g., USB drives) with public computers or other computers that are used by more than one person, unless you know they are adequately protected.
  • Don’t open a suspicious attachment without scanning it first with an updated antivirus software program. scanning an attachment to your computer does not automatically remove any computer worm that may be present.
  • Don’t open any email attachment that ends in .exe, .ps1, .vbs, or .lnk on a computer running Microsoft Windows.

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