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Re: Subject: Virus Warning!

thank you
-----Original Message-----
From: Guy Lancaster <glanca@gesn.com>
To: support@gesn.com <support@gesn.com>
Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: Subject: Virus Warning!

Tari Runyan wrote:
i am confused -  as usual - did i do the wrong thing in sending this up to support -

  No, it's not wrong but..., well, it can do more harm than good (although that harm is mostly to annoy Ken!) ;-)

  Computer viruses and other infections are so named because their behavior so closely mimics that of organic viruses.  Distributing virus warnings is akin to yelling "fire" in a crowd.  If the fire is real the warning can save lives.  However, if it's not, it can accidentally injure or even kill.  The difficulty is determining whether the smoke really means fire.  And there's no shortage of people throwing smoke bombs around for the thrill of it.

  So here's my formula:

1) Avoid exposure.  We know what that means for organic viruses but it's easy to be caught off guard for the computer ones.  The essential thing to keep in mind is that for a virus to take hold, it has to be able to change things in your computer.  This means that you have to give it permission to do so.  That's why the virus warnings always say something like "don't open this" or "don't click on that".  For most viruses that's all you have to do -- don't open or run anything that you are not sure is safe.

  So how do you know when something is safe?  Like the food we eat, it means that you have to both trust the source not to intentionally harm you and not to accidentally harm you.  Know your sources and ask yourself if you both trust them and trust their ability to check their sources.  It's a network of trust.  Usually you can trust the major companies and then it goes down from there.

2) Inoculate yourself.  If you don't feel safe depending on 1), then you may want a good anti-virus system and you'll need to keep it up to date.  Viruses mutate quickly and old defenses only protect against old viruses.  It's a lot of work maintaining an anti-virus system which is the biggest reason why we developers don't use them.

3) Take out insurance.  The only guarantee in life is...  You never know when your number's up so you prepare for the worst.  For computers this means maintaining your backups.  Of course you do that anyways for other reasons right?

  And don't think of backups as just a formal backup of your entire system.  Most of us will never manage that properly.  Backups include keeping multiple copies of our work (not the programs which we can re-install) in different places.  Keep copies of your documents on floppies.  Synchronize copies between your desktop and your laptop.  Do what works for you the same as for exercise, dieting, or whatever New Years resolution you care to make.

  In conclusion, don't panic when someone yells fire.  You know where the exits, lifeboats, parachutes, etc. are and you've prepared for just this situation.  And use Ken's hoax link to help spot the false alarms. http://www.av.ibm.com/InsideTheLab/Bookshelf/WhitePapers/Wells/HOWTOSPOT/howtospot.html

  Take care.