programs are the responsibility of the end-user.
is NOT responsible for what others might send in their e-mail.
Introduction: The rules for West-Point.org lists require that
everyone protect their computers with antivirus software. By
protecting your system, you help to protect everyone else on
the lists. During the summer of 2002, the computers used by some
members of the lists were infected and sent out infected emails
to other members. Receiving infected emails was annoying and
General: To keep your computer secured against exploits
from the Internet, follow these general security rules.
- Keep your software up-to-date. Many operating
systems provide an option to automatically download and install
- Install an antivirus (AV) program.
- Update antivirus definitions regularly,
at least weekly. Most AV programs have an option for automatically
download and install updates.
- Use a firewall, especially if your computer
is connected to the Internet all the time.
open an email attachment containing executable code. Some operating
systems hide extensions. If you're not sure, don't open the attachment!
Virus Hoaxes: Most virus warnings that you receive in emails
are hoaxes. Beware of any email that claims "Antivirus
programs will not detect this virus" and that tells
you to "Send this to all your freinds". Most
of these hoaxes give instructions for deleting a file that is
part of the Windows operating system. Before you follow antivirus
instructions received in an email, check at one of the following
web sites to see if it is another hoax.
Microsoft Windows: Most Internet security
exploits have been directed against the most common personal
computer operating system, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft programs
such as Internet Explorer (IE). If you use Windows, use the automatic
update option if it is available for your version. If you use
Windows 98, watch the Microsoft site for security updates. It
is especially important that you use a current versions of Internet
Explorer and the Outlook/Outlook Express (OE) email clients.
Earlier versions of OE and IE automatically launched several
destructive virus infections and then mass mailed infected messages
to the email address in the address book and IE cache.
Windows Antivirus Software Links. Links to sites
offering antivirus software for computers using the Microsoft
Windows operating system are listed in the chart below. At the
time this was written, Grisoft and F-Prot still provided their
software free for private, personal use.
If you have a high-speed always-on connection to the Internet,
be sensitive to the certainty of probes, attacks and hacks. High-speed
always-on computers are a favorite target of crackers and 'script
kiddies' who can take control of your computer. Most use your
computer to hide behind, making it look like you are responsible
for denial of service or other attacks against web sites. Your
computer can become an 'open relay' that sends out spam or threats
or whatever the cracker chooses to send. Once into your computer,
a cracker can read, modify or even destroy your files.
There are over 60,000 portals
to and from your computer. Some have to be open. For example,
Port 80 is the door to the Internet and Port 25 has to
be open for most email systems. By default, Microsoft Windows
operating systems left most ports open so that users would not
have to learn how to open a port when adding a new application.
You can look at a list of the most used ports at http://adsl.cutw.net/portlist.html.
Leaving all those portals or doors into computers wide
open was an invitation for crackers to take a look inside.
A firewall works by blocking
all ports except for those that you choose to open. If you have
a high-speed always-on connection to the Internet like DSL or
cable, you need to use a firewall. If you use a dial-up modem
to access the Internet, you may still want a firewall even though
you are a less desirable target for crackers. Most of the above
companies selling the above antivirus programs also sell firewall
programs. One company - ZoneAlarm
- still offers a free firewall for private, personal use.
You can test the vulnerability of your computer at the following
sites (Symantec only supports Windows and Macintosh). You may
be surprised at what you find!
Mac's are almost immune to computer exploits when compared to
PCs running Windows. Because there are relatively few of them,
Mac's are not well known by the crackers and 'script kiddies'
who write the code for computer exploits. For the same reason,
Mac's are not preferred targets for malicious programs. In addition,
the Apple and Macintosh operating systems are inherently more
secure than Windows.
So why get an antivirus program
for your Mac? Well, first, because the list rules require it.
Second, although rare (fewer than 100 compared to over 20,00
for Windows), there are Mac exploits and another might be created.
Third, there are a couple of free antivirus programs to protect
Mac's from exploits. And finally, most of the commercial antivirus
software for the Mac also scans for Windows exploits so that
you don't inadvertently pass on a Windows virus to a friend using
a Windows PC. Here are links to Apple Macintosh antivirus programs.
Because Unix and Unix-like operating systems are multi-user systems,
excellent security was part of the design. Although distributions
of the GNU/Linux operating system are most common, security for
all Unix-like systems is similar and inherently more secure than
Windows. Almost all 'nix exploits are directed against servers
that have to be open to the outside world to function. Most of
the web servers that make the Internet work run a 'nix operating
When installing a 'nix operating
system, only enable ports and services that will be needed. Keep
up-to-date on security patches for the programs that you use.
Most of the newer distributions have a provision for automatic
updates. Almost all current Linux distributions include several
firewall programs. Install and configure one of them.
So why install an antivirus program?
To protect your computer and data. Because most of the software
is open-source, crackers can read the source code and could potentially
find exploits. The 'nix antivirus programs look for code that
behaves like an exploit and alerts the user/administrator. The
commercial 'nix antivirus programs also include Windows virus
definitions to help protect your friends from the possibility
of a relay of an infected message from a 'nix computer. Besides,
list rules require that everyone use an antivirus program. A
couple of the links below offer free antivirus software for personal
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