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Protect Your Computer from Viruses and Worms

Four Ways to Protect Yourself

There is a 4-pronged method of attack against viruses and worms that attack your computer through the Internet as a result of your using Web browser software or email:

  1. Protection on your network. If you work for an organization, your IT staff should handle this. This involves firewalls, automated tools, and eternal vigilance.
  2. Protection by your operating system. Your operating system is the software that makes your computer work. Some operating systems are more prone to attack than others (Windows particularly). One can update one's OS with new versions or "patches" that fix newly discovered vulnerabilities. See "How to Install Patches and Updates on Your Computer" below for more on this.
  3. Protection by antivirus software. Your IT staff should guide you on this - but if they're not, don't just stand there and take it! Most major companies use a virus protection tool (McAfee, Norton AntiVirus, etc.) that have updates available online. Symantec corporation has put 5 updates in the last 8 days to protect users of Norton Antivirus from these new strains of viruses. You must download the new virus definitions using some tool or other, so that your antivirus program knows how to recognize a virus and therefore how to protect you. See the Web site of the company that makes your software. In times like these, check those sites DAILY. You will recognize "times like these." Your IT staff looks like they haven't slept in a week, and half the people you know are sitting at their desks fussing because their computers are off-line with viruses or being fixed.
  4. Careful behavior on your part. For example, never opening email with attachments, EVEN IF you know who it is from. Sometimes you can bend the rule, e.g. if you are expecting it and it looks exactly like what you know is coming. But you should save your attachments without opening them to a location on your hard drive, scan the downloaded files with an updated virus checking tool, and THEN open them. Don't be fooled, when checking email, by an interesting return address or subject. And if the subject says RE: SOMETHING when you did not send out an email in the last day or two with the subject SOMETHING, it is either spam or potentially dangerous.

How to Install Patches and Updates on Your Computer

Installing Patches & Updates:   Windows Users    |     Macintosh OS X Users  

Windows Users

  1. Visit the Microsoft Windows Update Web Site.
  2. Open up your Internet Explorer Browser (do not use Netscape).
  3. Type in the following URL: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.
  4. OR, while in Internet Explorer, select "Tools" and then "Windows Update" from the menu bar, accept the "Security Warning" by clicking the Yes button, so the Windows Update Client can be installed to your computer (if applicable).

    NOTE: As of the moment this is written, the appropriate Web page is down, and users are redirected to a "Thank you for your interest in Windows Update" page. This should be back up soon - Microsoft Corporation is just not willing to admit, ever, to anyone, that they could be overwhelmed by visitors seeking help to fix their very vulnerable software.

  5. Click the Scan for Updates button in the center of the web page, and allow the software to determine what updates are needed.
  6. Click the Review and Install Updates button to see what needs to be installed on your system.
  7. Updates are divided into three areas:

    A.    Critical Updates and Service Packs - Things you SHOULD install to keep your system protected
    B.    Windows 2000 - Recommended updates; As a general rule, if your computer is functioning fine, DO NOT install these unless you are experiencing one of the described errors
    C.    Driver Updates - Updates to installed hardware (i.e., video drivers) - These are fine to install, if you feel you need the functionality offered

    All critical updates will automatically be selected for installation.

  8. Click the Add button to add additional items you wish to update.
  9. Click the Review and Install Updates link on the left-hand side of the page, and then click the Install Now button.
  10. If any one of the products requires separate installation, you will receive a notification message; in such cases, click the OK button and continue by installing that product first.

  11. Click the Accept button to begin the installation.
  12. Reboot your computer if necessary.
  13. Visit the Windows Update Site repeatedly to find out what still needs to be installed. Select items as needed, and then reboot after each install (Service Packs are the only things which need to be installed separately - all other items can be installed at the same time).

Congratulations! Your computer's operating system is now fully patched and updated! Remember also to ensure that your virus definitions are up to date.

Installing Patches & Updates:   Windows Users    |     Macintosh OS X Users  

Macintosh OS X Users

Use your Mac's Software Update feature:

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Double-click Software Update.
  3. The Software Update window appears.

  4. To view the last update installed, click the Installed Updates tab. A list of software installed using this feature appears.
  5. To immediately perform a comparison between the operating system software and tools installed on your computer and newer materials available on Apple's Web site, do the following:
    • Click the Update Software tab.
    • On the bottom of the Update Software area, click Check Now.
    • Note: If not already connected to the Internet, you will need to do this for the comparison to take place or to download any updates.

      If any new software or tools is available for your Macintosh OS, each item appears in a list of software or tools.

    • Review the list of software items available for update.
    • Highlight any single item to see a detailed description in the description pane.

      For each item in the list that you want to install, check the box in the Install column.

  6. When you have reviewed all available items and marked the ones you want to install, click the Install button.
  7. The Authenticate window appears.

  8. Software update requires administative user authentication.
  9. In the Name field, enter the name of an administrative user.

    In the Password or phrase field, enter the appropriate administrative password.

    Click OK.

    Software update will begin its comparison and download the appropriate items. These items will automatically be installed.

  10. If prompted, restart your computer in order to take advantage of the new software updates.

Congratulations! Your computer's operating system is now fully patched and updated! Remember also to ensure that your virus definitions are up to date.

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