Protecting yourself against the latest computer worms

The computer virus that’s being talked about all over the media lately is actually a few months old.  It’s called Conficker or Downadup.  It spreads through a few different methods, and is being mixed together in discussions with other virus infections that are prevalent.  PC World has a decent article about it: http://www.pcworld.com/article/157876/protecting_against_the_rampant_conficker_worm.html.

If you’ve got a Macintosh, you’re safe.  If you have a Windows PC, you can protect yourself by:

  1. Make sure you’re patched up to date: Start-All Programs-Windows Update, and make sure that it is running and has installed patches this month.  The virus shuts the update system down.
  2. Make sure you are running a current anti-virus program, that it has recent virus definitions, and that it has scanned your computer.  If you have Comcast or AOL, you can get McAfee free.  Symantec or Norton Antivirus are good.  A reasonable free alternative is AVG, available at http://avgfree.com.  That site ultimately leads you here to download and install: http://download.cnet.com/AVG-Anti-Virus-Free-Edition/3000-2239_4-10320142.html?tag=mncol
  3. Install MalwareBytes Anti-Malware and scan your computer.  This is the latest anti-spyware program, and runs faster and more effectively that most other programs, and it’s free!  Go to http://download.com and search for malwarebytes.  Beware of the “sponsored links” – they are frequently soundalike programs that may actually be scams.  Use this link: http://download.cnet.com/Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware/3000-8022_4-10804572.html?tag=mncol.

Be careful with USB memory drives.  If inserted into an infected machine, it may also get infected, and the virus affects the autoplay system which can trick you into opening the virus.  See http://isc.sans.org/diary.html?storyid=5695 for more information and pictures of the autoplay trick.

Some virus variations, not necessarily this one, use poisoned links for videos that try to trick you into installing updates to Adobe Flash.  If you click on a link for a video, and it wants you to install software, don’t.

You can further protect yourself by using Firefox 3 instead of Internet Explorer (IE).  Firefox is generally faster, and doesn’t support a primary method that many viruses exploit to automaticaly run software on your computer (ActiveX).  You are particularly at risk if you are still running IE 6 or an even older version.  IE 7 is better, but still more vulnerable than Firefox.  Get it from http://firefox.com.

The Conficker worm has been speading for months – the latest fuss is because something might happen on infected machines on April 1 – but nobody really knows what.  If your computer is up-to-date and scanned, you’ll probably be fine.
-JFS



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