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Ask Aaron

This month Ask Aaron addresses some ground rules for how things will operate in future issues and offers information about anti-virus software and evil viral emails.

We have set up a new section that (hopefully) will appear with every edition of Dialogue. It's called Ask Aaron, and in it I am going to try and address questions relating to anything computerized. This month Ask Aaron addresses some ground rules for how things will operate in the future issues and offers information about anti-virus software and evil viral emails.

This new section will be entirely user driven, meaning you the reader are in some part
responsible for what gets covered next month. I have included a discussion forum below, where I hope that anyone interested will ask a question. Smaller questions will get answered ASAP, while larger ones will be worked into the next issue. If you wish to remain publicly anonymous, ideas, questions or comments are always welcome by e-mail to aaron@cllrnet.ca. However, this month’s edition is unique in that I do not have a list of pressing questions yet. So I have decided to address what I consider the most important issue facing anyone using a computer at work or home computer viruses. I will present some historical information on this phenomenon, and discuss some basic strategies to avoiding getting a virus on your computer.

Computer Viruses: Computer viruses are not a new thing. The first big computer virus dates back to 1988 with what is called the Morris Worm (you can find more information about the Morris Worm at http://www.software.com.pl/newarchive/misc/Worm/darbyt/pages/worm.html). Since that time a number of major virus outbreaks have occurred, including the high profile 'I love you' virus and derivatives. If you want to keep your computer free of these pesky critters here are some things you should do.

1.) Install antivirus software on all your computers. It doesn’t matter
which antivirus program you use just update it regularly. Once a month should be mandatory, and once a week is recommended. This takes a small time commitment to do, but can save you many hours of heartache from lost grant applications, theses and research. Most new antivirus software can be set-up to update itself on regular intervals.

2.) Exercise common sense when sending or receiving e-mail attachments.
This is the primary way that viruses are spread. Any e-mail you
receive with an attachment, ask yourself the following questions:
        i) Did the sender tell me what they attached to this e-mail?
        ii) Was I expecting them to send me this?
        iii) Is it the right type of file that I should be receiving?
To illustrate, I have included a real world text message only from a virus
that I recently encountered and subsequently destroyed with my antivirus software.

To: aaron@cllrnet.ca
Subject: Joke
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2021 10:53:40 -0500 (EST)
Hi, I have some cool joke - worms so have a look at it (no virus)
Your friend,
        {Your Friends Name}
attachment : << worms.zip >>

Some things to notice from this e-mail:

1) The sender has not identified themselves or that this e-mail was intended for a specific recipient.  When you are sending people information, describe exactly what the file you are sending is. Include things like the format of a document (Microsoft Word, WordPerfect), version or draft information, and the purpose of sending it along.

2) The text of the message is very brief. There is no text indicating this is a reply from a message you might have sent them earlier. When you are sending information to other people, you should write enough that the sender will know that the e-mail originates from you and was not automatically generated by a virus.

3) The file that is attached is (in this case) called Worms.zip. Avoid file attachments that do not indicate what they are in their name. Files with vague titles like Resume, Proposal, etc., should be avoided. When you are sending people information, use a descriptive title like CFI Grant Proposal 04/2002 instead of Grant or Proposal.

4) One final note - recognizing an e-mail senders name is not enough to
protect you. Computer e-mail viruses operate by infecting your
e-mail program, which then spreads itself by e-mail to everyone in your
address book. It’s likely that any virus that gets e-mailed to you is
from someone that you normally have contact with.

Safe Emailing!



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