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Going Beyond Anti-Virus Software.

As the world awaits the next inevitable virus attack, the question is: what can you do to see that your own company's systems aren't infected? Because anti-virus software programs are reactive, they cannot protect against the first wave of any new code. "When there's a fast moving virus like the Love Bug, for instance, it takes a few hours for the anti-virus companies to find out about them, protect against them, and get those updates out to customers," says Graham Cluley, head of corporate communications for anti-virus software maker Sophos Inc. Therefore, just running such programs and keeping them updated is not enough.

"You've got to practice safe computing as well," says Cluley. He offers a number of practical suggestions, such as having the IT administrator turn off Windows scripting host in Windows 98. It's installed and turned on by default even though most users won't need it. "There's a selection of viruses, which include LoveLetter, which rely on it," says Cluley. "If it's not installed on your computer, then...viruses like that just simply won't work."

Unfortunately, it's not as easy to deinstall macro capabilities, which are also a great source of viral infections. "The way Microsoft turns off macro functionality is not good enough," notes Cluley. "Just about every virus worth its salt knows how to turn it hack on again," he says.

The anti-virus vendor community has been lobbying Microsoft to make it possible for companies to deinstall macros or to keep them from being installed in the first place. "The good news is Microsoft has woken up a bit...about viruses because of the Love Bug, and they are now communicating with us and other anti-virus vendors about what more they can do," says Cluley. But he notes that it takes the software giant several years to come out with a new version of Word, so the macro change will not come anytime soon.

Cluley also recommends that companies consider putting a block at the corporate gateway to simply prohibit any e-mail from coming into the system with certain types of file attachments that viruses can inhabit. Thus, even if it were a new type of virus that the anti-virus software would not recognize, it would not get through. Problem attachments include visual basic script (.vbs) and executable (.exe) files. "That way you stop viruses like ExploreZip, which spread very fast shortly after Melissa," he says.

Cluley offers a list of other administrative tips for strengthening your system's viral defense.
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Security Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:414
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