Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
I'm always astounded by the sheer stupidity of some people when it comes to
the issue of email-borne viruses.
The rapid proliferation of the latest virus known as
is further proof that some people should be banned from getting within
20 metres of a PC.
Time and time again, computer users have been told how to avoid becoming
infected by these nasty little pieces of code -- yet time and time again
many ignore this advice and find themselves contributing to the problem
by hosting and inadvertently distributing a virus.
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What's also surprising is that it's not just the naive users who are getting
Full marks to IDG for fessing up to the fact that someone there had been
dumb enough to ignore the rules and open an unsolicited email attachment,
thus infecting their entire network (see the news links below).
Marks off however, for not making sure that each and every employee has
the very simple basics of virus avoidance drummed into them. Maybe it
would be worth printing out this list (PDF)
of simple steps and pinning it over their computers?
But, if we can't trust computer users to act sensibly, perhaps we ought
to look elsewhere if we want to stem the spread of new viruses.
Many ISPs have installed virus filters in an effort to halt the spread of
email-borne nasties, and this does work quite well for established and
well-known viruses such as Klez.
However, the problem with virus filters, and anti-virus software for that
matter, is that it relies on the accuracy and timeliness of pre-programmed
scanning patterns so will only work against "known threats".
There's always going to be a "window of opportunity" between
the time when a virus is released and the time when the filters are updated,
during which new viruses will be allowed to pass, undetected.
Indeed, it's quite possible that some Net users have developed a false sense of security
that their ISP's filters will protect them from infection and are, as a result,
less likely to take as much care as they should.
Maybe ISPs ought to implement a system that checks a user's PC to ensure the
OS, browser and email clients are patched to the latest levels at all times --
or they're denied access to send and receive email.
This would amount to a virtual warrant of fitness for the PC and if your
system wasn't up to standard then the only websites you'd be allowed to
access would be those you needed to get the required updates.
After all, it's quite likely that a huge percentage of those machines infected
by BugBear aren't running the patches that stop the automatic execution of
carefully crafted viral attachments.
Of course this would never fly. For obvious reasons no ISP is going to risk
offending a paying customer and those who couldn't be bothered keeping their
software up to date would simply migrate to whatever ISP was not implementing
such a system. As a result, the problem wouldn't be solved, just relocated.
No, the buck really has to stop with the end-user.
Whether you're an individual PC user or in charge of a large network of
PC users then I really recommend that you download and print this
anti-virus checklist (PDF)
or create your own.
In a corporate situation, circulate a copy of this list to all personnel and
have them sign it to indicate that they are now aware of their obligations when
it comes to handling incoming email.
Make sure another copy is pinned directly over their PC -- and try sending
them a "test email" at random intervals. Those who open the unsolicited
attachment can be dragged over the coals and reminded of their obligations.
If you want to have your say on the contents
of today's column then please do so.
Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the
readers' comments section.
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