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Your Anti-Virus Program Isn?t Working

Many of you reading this have been recently infected by the malicious virus or worms that are pervasive on the Internet. You had relied on your anti-virus software to protect. The problem is that, usually, it takes the anti-virus software companies a couple of hours to develop the files after a new virus is spotted and analyzed. It may take another day or so for computer users to download the update and inoculate themselves against the latest virus. But meanwhile, a virus can make its way around the globe in just minutes, propelled by users' clicks on virus-laden e-mail attachments.

In a recent study by the Department of Trade and Industry in the United Kingdom, 93 percent of smaller companies and 99 percent of large companies said they use anti-virus software, and close to 60 percent of firms update their antivirus software automatically to keep up with new virus threats. But computer viruses still managed to hit 50 percent of the smaller firms and infect 68 percent of the larger companies' networks in 2003.

There are alternatives to the signature-file model of detecting and stopping viruses. For example, integrity checking builds a database that describes the uninfected programs and files on a PC and blocks all attempts to alter them. Heuristic scanners evaluate a program's code to anticipate malicious intentions. The downside--from the software companies' point of view--is that these types of programs would not require updates as frequently as signature-file programs, so it would be harder to justify an annual subscription fee.

Always, always, always remember the golden key to NEVER NEVER NEVER click on an any attachment you are not 100 percent certain is valid. Call the person on the phone to confirm that the attachment is real. These new worms are able to "spoof" on fake addresses and many dangerous worms are disguised as innocent e-mails from someone you know.

Wired March 18, 2004

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