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security : anti virus

A virus is a piece of programming code usually disguised as something else that causes some unexpected and usually undesirable event. A virus is often designed so that it is automatically spread to other computer users.

Viruses can be transmitted as attachments to an e-mail note, as downloads, or be present on a diskette or CD. The source of the e-mail note, downloaded file, or diskette you've received is often unaware of the virus.

Some viruses wreak their effect as soon as their code is executed; other viruses lie dormant until circumstances cause their code to be executed by the computer.

Some viruses are playful in intent and effect ("Happy Birthday, Ludwig!") and some can be quite harmful, erasing data or causing your hard disk to require reformatting.

Generally, there are three main classes of viruses:

File Infectors

Some file infector viruses attach themselves to program files, usually selected .COM or .EXE files. Some can infect any program for which execution is requested, including .SYS, .OVL, .PRG, and .MNU files.

When the program is loaded, the virus is loaded as well. Other file infector viruses arrive as wholly-contained programs or scripts sent as an attachment to an e-mail note.

System Infectors

System or boot-record infectors. These viruses infect executable code found in certain system areas on a disk. They attach to the DOS boot sector on diskettes or the Master Boot Record on hard disks.

A typical scenario (familiar to the author) is to receive a diskette from an innocent source that contains a boot disk virus. When your operating system is running, files on the diskette can be read without triggering the boot disk virus.

However, if you leave the diskette in the drive, and then turn the computer off or reload the operating system, the computer will look first in your A drive, find the diskette with its boot disk virus, load it, and make it temporarily impossible to use your hard disk.

(Allow several days for recovery.) This is why you should make sure you have a bootable floppy.

Macro Infectors

These are among the most common viruses, and they tend to do the least damage. Macro viruses infect your Microsoft Word application and typically insert unwanted words or phrases.

The best protection against a virus is to know the origin of each program or file you load into your computer or open from your e-mail program. Since this is difficult, you can buy anti-virus software that can screen e-mail attachments and also check all of your files periodically and remove any viruses that are found.

From time to time, you may get an e-mail message warning of a new virus. Unless the warning is from a source you recognize, chances are good that the warning is a virus hoax.

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The first virus affecting StarOffice was detected Tuesday, but so far it isn't being used to infect computers.

The IT industry will never eradicate security threats to e-mail systems and organizations should take a holistic approach to securing their communication systems to the level where they believe risk is at a manageable state, according to panelists at this week’s Inbox e-mail conference in San Jose.

Today's bug patches and security alerts:

If you are running a Windows computer and not using some sort of anti-virus package then you are likely not the one really running your computer. It is very likely that some hacker halfway around the world can do anything he wants to with “your� computer. In a Windows environment running anti-virus to protect the computer from worms and viruses is what is euphemistically called “a required option.� So what do you do when the very tool that is supposed to protect you from attacks turns out to be enabling them?

Today's bug patches and security alerts:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It’s time organizations consider switching from best of breed to “best of need� products when it comes to security, as vendors realize their offerings are becoming commoditized and start pricing them accordingly.

Microsoft Tuesday offered free trial versions of its forthcoming anti-virus and anti-spam software for e-mail that it obtained last year when it acquired Sybari Software.

Sophos has incorporated several new features in a security software package released Wednesday that allows network administrators to manage security for thousands of computers from a single console.

In addition to writing this security-related newsletter, I also cover multimedia and conferencing technologies for Network World. One of the analyst firms that I rely on for information is conducting a survey on videoconferencing and IP communications usage. Here are the details:

Crossbeam has come out with two security devices for mid-size businesses that support multiple security applications made by other vendors.

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