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Antivirus Protection 

 Introduction | General | Virus Hoaxes | Microsoft Windows | Windows AV Links
Windows Firewalls | Security Checkups | Apple MacIntosh | Mac AV Links
Linux/BSD/Unix | 'Nix AV Links

Antivirus programs are the responsibility of the end-user.

WP-ORG is NOT responsible for what others might send in their e-mail.
Protect yourself!

Introduction: The rules for 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 potentially damaging.

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 updates.
  • 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.
  • NEVER 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.

Windows Firewalls. 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 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.

Think you're safe?

Security Check-Ups. 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!
Click on "Shields Up!"
Click on "Check for Security Risks"

Apple Macintosh. 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.

Linux/Unix/BSD. 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 system.

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 use.

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