avoiding viruses

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: avoiding viruses
From: Peter Adderley <>
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 15:49:03 +1100
I have to say that all the fangled software under the sun will not save you from viruses.
They will help if used in the right way, but defense is based upon knowledge;
knowledge and familiarity of how they work. This does not require a rocket science
degree, but it really helps to understand our own vulnerabilities, and how
those vulnerabilities are rapidly changing.
Even though I've been preaching about the dangers of Outlook Express
for ages now, it was only this week that I finally expunged it from my machine.
OE was convenient and worked well, but its problem lies in that it archives
stored email in a way that virus checkers cannot (usually) detect them.
I've just set up Eudora which stores attachments "as is" so that my
up to date virus checker can see them. Virus checkers need to be updated
AT LEAST weekly now, if not even more regularly. And, please believe me,
it's not paranoia, they really ARE out to getcha!

Now, time was, when most viruses were only contracted when you opened
attachments. We quickly learned to suspect ALL attachments,
no matter who they were from. Those days of innocence are sadly over.
Just by previewing emails (even those without attachments) can lead to
catching a virus. Virus code can be lurking within rich-text or html format emails.
The best way to get round this one is to learn to turn your preview pane
on and off. Receive mail with the preview pane OFF, delete suspect mail,
and only then turn it back on when you are sure your received mail is safe.
O Express makes turning the preview pane on and off difficult, but on my version
it was simply a matter of learning the keyboard shortcuts.
On my version I used Alt-V, L, P, A  but as there are many versions of OE,
you may have to check this one for yourself.

The last point is in learning the difference between the two kinds of email,
which are: "simple text format" and "rich text", "rtf", or "html" format email.
Most email programs give you the option of using both and usually
give you the option of turning off the "rich text" format option.
Rich text emails are usually identified as having a background colour,
differing fonts and allow pictures, and even sounds, to be included in the body of the email. The problem here lies in the fact that these emails can also include malicious code. Eudora's "options" even gives you a choice within its "viewing mail" section of:
"Allow executables in HTML content"
For goodness sake, turn this one OFF. Talk about a red rag to a bull.
Unfortunately most email programs don't distinguish between RTF (HTML),
and simple text format emails in the receiving of such.
I expect this will change fairly soon, and I do hope email programs will become
somewhat more virus aware.

I also hope that the above is not as boring as it was to explain, albeit very briefly. All I can say, people, is don't bury your head in the sand and expect not to be attacked.
As you can see from previous emails, we ARE under attack,
and ignoring the problem can only make it worse for all of us who do try to be vigilant.

Peter Adderley

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