Pro-active measures defeat viral assaults

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 12:00am

With all these Microsoft Word- and Outlook-related viruses going around, do you have any sound advice for average computer users such as myself besides 'get an anti-virus program' - the sage words you dish out every time someone asks this question? As I understand it, anti-virus programs are simply not a solution by themselves, especially when it comes to new viruses such as the Love Bug.

JOSEPH PETERSON Mid-Levels, Hong Kong You're right. An anti-virus program is no substitute for common sense.

You would have to have been resident on the planet Zog during the past two years not to have heard about e-mail viruses by now.

If you still gleefully open up every piece of e-mail that pops into your inbox, you probably deserve to have your hard disk wiped out. But the poor souls who end up cyberpoxed by a virus spread through your address book certainly do not.

Enough of my ranting. Let's look at how you would deal with some of these new viruses. Take one called VBS.

NewLove.A, which was discovered last week. Like most others of its kind, it is spread by e-mail, but is recognisable because the subject line of an e-mail containing it begins with the words FW:Filename.ext. The e-mail will also contain an attachment named Filename.ext.vbs. The Filename.ext file is derived from your recently opened documents list. If you open this mail attachment, the virus will overwrite all files on your hard disk and rename them so they all end in '.vbs'.

Our internal IT professionals assure me there is no way to recover these files if you did not have a clean back-up. Just as important, this nasty piece of work will get into your Outlook address book (if you use it) and send a copy of this virus to everyone in it.

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to be ultra careful of e-mail you receive. Be even more careful of mail containing attachments, even if they are from friends.

Never open an attachment of any kind directly from within your e-mail program. Instead, save a copy (dragging and dropping the attachment icon is the easiest way) into a folder set up for the purpose on your desktop and use your anti-virus program to scan this copy before you open it. This defeats the 'convenience' features of e-mail programs that allow you to open files from within them, but the extra steps will be worth it.

For a little more reading on this subject, go to on the Web and under the 'Enterprise' section, read the article headlined 'Shore up your defences before next virus hits'. . Questions to Tech Talk will not be answered personally. Technology Post reserves the right to edit letters.

Larry Campbell is publisher of The opinions expressed in this column are his own. E-mail comments and questions to techtalk