Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VIRUS ALERT

There's a very serious computer virus going around. My friend Josh sent me an email about it, and I thought I'd pass it on to all 3 people that read this blog.
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First, here are articles detailing this new virus:

http://www.krdo.com/Global/story.asp?S=9722921
http://computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9126349
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28779569/

The virus goes by many names, such as Conficker or Downadup. Unfortunately, this is the HIV equivalent of a computer virus.

Here's a summary of what I found:

* If your computers are networked (not in a "workgroup" or simply sharing files, but all running from a single server), then having this virus on the network is the worst case scenario. You'll have to call an IT expert who's worked with this virus to clean up the network. [The rest of the bullet points deal with individual PC's.]
* I'll repeat the advice I gave earlier: This virus can literally be spread by any means. For example: It can lie dormant on one computer that is already MS-updated, you share a file with another computer that is not MS-updated, and now they have the virus. It will also spread via USB devices, emails, malicious websites, etc. If you have administrative access on your PC, run not just a Windows Update, but also a Microsoft Update. They've bundled them together anymore, but make sure you're doing both.
* The operating systems most at risk are unpatched Windows 2000, Windows XP SP2 and XP SP3, and Windows Server 2003.
* I stand by my advice I give all Windows users, which is to create a "limited user account" that you work with on a day-to-day basis. Windows defaults everyone to the Administrator account, which you need to install/uninstall software, configure files and apps, etc. But, by using a limited account as your default, even if you download malware, your computer doesn't have permission to automatically install it. Granted, setting up your limited account may take a few hours to customize things the way you like it, and what-not. But it's worth it in the long run.
* Call me paranoid, but I always have at least two firewalls up and running. One is in my router -- you'll have to check the specs of the particular router you use (I use D-Link). But for your PC, ZoneAlarm is highly regarded and I've used the free version for some time: http://www.zonealarm.com/security/en-us/free-upgrade-security-suite-zonealarm-firewall.htm Avira's free antivirus has done some of the best virus detection I've seen yet: http://www.download.com/Avira-AntiVir-Personal-Free-Antivirus/3000-2239_4-10322935.html?part=dl-10322935&subj=dl&tag=button&cdlPid=10986298 And SpyBot - Search and Destroy does a very thorough scan for all types of spyware: http://www.safer-networking.org/en/ownmirrors1/index.html

The best medicine for this virus is prevention. Microsoft and other antivirus companies are working on patches to detect and remove the virus, but they are way behind the curve. I feel that if you follow the advice regarding Microsoft updates, limited user accounts, firewall, antivirus, and antispyware, you're PC should not get infected. Unfortunately, as I stated previously, you could be carrying a dormant virus, which makes file sharing a risk to others who do not practice PC prevention.

There are in fact two simpler options: switch to GNU/Linux, or switch to Mac. But, if you're stuck with Micro$oft in the meantime, you don't want to be one of the millions who have already been hit by this "super" virus.

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