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 Identifying a threat    Minimising a threat    Symptoms of an attack

Identifying a threat

  • Floppy disks and CDs brought into an organisation [including shrink-wrapped software from original manufactures, disks from other organisations [suppliers, marketing agencies, etc.] ] bring with them the risk of virus infection. The movement of floppy disks and CDs between different sites within an organisation may also help to spread a virus. Boot sector viruses [which spread via floppy disks] are still common; and viruses have been found on CDs.
  • Desktop PCs used at home [and laptop PCs] are a potential source of virus infection. The use of laptop PCs, in particular, has become commonplace in the last few years. Floppy disks and CDs used in these PCs may not have been checked for viruses. And the employee may not be the only person using the PC [spouse, children, friends, etc.]. It is important to recognise that these PCs, which are not under the direct control of an organisation's IT Department, may be more exposed to virus infection than those which are under the direct control of the organisation.
    • The use of e-mail within corporate organisations provides an effective way for viruses to spread. It is not possible to become infected by a virus simply by reading a text message [in spite of the many virus hoaxes ['Good Times', 'Irina', 'Penpal Greetings', 'Deeyenda', 'AOL4FREE', 'Join the Crew', etc.] which supposedly spread via text messages] ]. However, e-mail attachments are a potential threat. Since the advent of macro viruses, which infect documents and spreadsheets, e-mail has become a very effective mechanism for spreading viruses If a document or spreadsheet is infected, it can become widespread very quickly by being attached to an e-mail message. This is true even of an e-mail system, with no connection to the outside world. If users are able to send and receive e-mail via the Internet, the threat becomes even greater.
    • Use of the Internet is a further potential source of infection. If any users within an organisation have direct access to the Internet [this includes access to CompuServe, America Online, the World Wide Web, etc.] they are able to download a vast range of material [including programs and documents] . . . all potentially infected. Any file downloaded could contain a virus; either an executable file virus or a macro virus. Unprotected access to the Internet can provide a virus with a springboard within your organisation.

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    Minimising a threat

    • Taking regular backups of data on your system is the most important precaution you can take against data loss, whether that data loss is the result of hardware or software malfunction, or virus infection.
    • You should ensure that ALL incoming software comes from reputable sources. It is a common, though mistaken, belief that shareware, free disks or games are the only source of viruses.
    • Floppy disks are a common means by which viruses are spread [boot sector viruses, which represent a large proportion of the viruses reported to Prognet, can be spread only on floppy disks].

      • Always Write protect your Boot disk.
      • Don’t allow external floppies without Virus checking.
      • If you have a Hard disk, never Boot it from floppy.
      • Enable the Boot Sector Virus protection option in CMOS.
      • Discourage users from leaving floppy disks in the drive when PCs are switched off, to prevent PCs from being inadvertently booted from a floppy disk infected with a boot sector virus.

    • Judicious network management can go a long way towards preventing the infection of files stored on a network. By setting files to 'execute-only', the network supervisor can ensure that users are able to run software without being able to change it.

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    Symptoms of an attack

    • According to an anti-virus package, several files on the computer are infected, all with the same virus
    • Windows 95 refuses to use 32 bit disk access, or 32 bit file access
    • If you try to save a Word for Windows document (using File|Save As), the options are greyed-out. You cannot select the drive, folder or directory in which to save the file; and 'Document Template is the selected option in the 'Save File as Type' box.
    • Reduction in memory Size.
    • Unusual File Size increasing and decreasing.
    • Boot failures and System Crashes.
    • Unusual messages in Screen and Printer.
    • Slower operation of System.
    • Longer unusual disk operations.
    • Files may not run properly.

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