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This page was last updated: 11/3/2009 2:14:47 PM

Security: Viruses

All CWSL workstations have had anti-virus software pre-installed by Information Technology. It is configured to automatically update anti-virus signatures automatically. Please bear in mind that you are responsible for installing and maintaining anti-virus software on any home or personal laptop computer that connects to the CWSL network.

What are Viruses?

Viruses are programs (software) that are created by people. Some of them are benign, some annoying, and some destructive. The thing they have in common is their method of propagation. They are self-replicating if they are able to spread themselves into other executable programs or documents. Usually attaching to valid files to spread to other parts of the system or network. There are two virus sub-types that are important.

Worms: These are generally thought of as viruses but are different in an important way. Unlike a virus that needs another program to propagate a worm has its own self-contained propagation engine. It can email itself out to other victims from its network connected host for example.

Trojan Horses: Like its mythical namesake a trojan horse pretends to be something you want (like file sharing software) until it gets inside your computer then whammo! Actually these programs usually aren't designed for destruction but for spying. Many spy on what websites you go to. Some spy on what keystrokes you make (a.k.a. key loggers). This information is sent automatically back to the programmer or sender of the trojan horse.

What steps can I take to avoid Viruses on my home computer?

  • Install a good anti-virus program. There are several good ones on the market. The most popular are by Symantec and McAfee. There are also some free anti-virus packages. We have home licenses of McAfee VirusScan. Contact HelpDesk if you are interested in obtaining McAfee AntiVirus for your home computer.
  • Always be suspicious of any email containing attachments or from people you don't know (and even people you do know!). It is important to remember that worms can automatically email themselves out from their host. They can create copies of themselves as attachments to email sent out automatically. They can also pretend to come from the victim, inserting the victims name in the from field of the email. Ask yourself
  • If you have high-speed Internet such as Cable or DSL make sure you have a Cable/DSL router. A cable/DSL router will help "hide" your system from the Internet. Viruses that probe systems on the Internet for vulnerabilities will have a harder time with your system than the one that is simply plugged directly into the Cable or DSL Modem with nothing in between. Unfortunately, Cable and DSL providers often install your home broadband connection using the simplest possible configuration (i.e. not broadband router or firewall). Please recognize that this is no longer considered a secure method of connecting to the Internet. Please feel free to discuss home firewall/router options with Information Technology HelpDesk.
  • Always make sure your operating system, antivirus software, and browser are up to date. Some scams use viruses or holes in the security of operating systems like Windows and browsers like Internet Explorer. You should always make sure you have the latest security updates installed on your computer. Information Technology works diligently to keep all servers and desktop computers updated with the latest security updates, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware. It is up to you to make sure your personal laptops and home computers are kept up to date.

I think I've been infected. What should I do?

  • Immediately update your virus definitions and run your anti-virus scan utility.
    Familiarize yourself with your anti-virus program manual. It will let you know how to do both of these things. If you are using McAfee VirusScan as provided by Information Technology do the following: Right-click the red, white, and blue McAfee shield icon in the System Tray (the box in the lower right corner where the clock is). Choose Update Now... After the newest virus definitions are up to date right-click the shield again and choose On Demand Scan... McAfee will let you know if it finds anything and what it does to it. Most often McAfee will take care of the virus without any further action from you.
  • The anti-virus scan did not find anything. Now what should I do?
    If your virus definitions are current and the On Demand Scan (McAfee only, other antivirus companies scanning processes will have different names) did not find anything suspicious it usually means you are not infected. If you think differently, you might consult a virus information site such as the Symantec Threat Library or the McAfee Threat Library. You can also send questions to



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