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Viruses and Trojans February 1, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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virus   Viruses have annoyed me since I began working at the university. When Sircam hit, it knocked out a few of my computers. Since faculty members were away for the summer at that time, we had to phone them or post messages on their doors urging them not to open mail with attachments from unknown senders. One professor called me from Mexico to tell me officials were in the streets with megaphones telling people virtually the same message of warning.

Other viruses have hit us here over the years and our system of protection has become much more sophisticated. Now, rather than rely on users to have anti-virus software installed and updated, we automatically push the latest virus definitions out to users every hour.

Now we have a whole breed of viruses, some purists would call them viri. The come attached to e-mails that play with either your ego or your money. I have received scores of calls over the last year from faculty and students inquiring about messages telling them someone has been give access to their insert name of bank here account. The financial institution varies, but the phishing expedition sometimes tricks people into visiting the site in question.

Eudora and other mail readers are not popping up warnings when you mouse over the link embedded in these e-mails. If the link as it appears does not match the address to which it resolves, Eudora will warn you. The real work is then in the hands of my users who must delete the message right away.

This Friday, just after I got home I found a message form someone at yale.edu asking me to review an article and photograph about myself for Campus Life magazine. My ego perked up, for just a moment. Someone is writing an article about little old me, well that is quite understandable. Let us just open it and, wait a sec, I have not been interviewed. Nobody asked me for permission. If they really wanted me to review something, they would get back to me. I trashed the message after doing a quick search on Google using key phrases from the message, just to be sure.

I immediately sent a message to everyone on the College listserv. I know they received it because I got a few cracks back from my colleagues. I thought that was the end of it but today I have received almost thirty messages from faculty and students in the form of e-mails, phone calls, printouts of the message. Some people were quite agitated. I told them all to trash the message then empty the trash.

Today the next wave is upon me, those who worked hard to open the attachment have now become not only disenchanted and let down because there was no article about them, but they also have an infection on their computers. Sophos, our anti-virus software of choice, has a tool they can use to fix their machines, but it takes a few steps and requires a bit of patience. Serves them right, I guess. But every one of them said something like, “I knew I was making a mistake the second I hit the enter key.?

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