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Some late summer revision

To whoever wrote the W32/Bagle.AQ@MM virus: thanks, mate! The summer holidays are over and I was struggling to find a way to find a way to introduce some revision about computer security. But now I have this virus.

Why do I like it? Well, in general I hate viruses but this one helps me make three really important points. So open your text books to page one and read along with me. Or as they used to say in the dreaded language lab when I was at school, “ecouter et repeter.”

First, it's a virus. Which reminds me to tell you that you need to have good, up-to-date virus protection. “W32/Bagle.AQ@MM” was discovered on 9th August. If you haven’t updated your virus signatures since, then you could be vulnerable. You do have virus protection, right?

If you received an infected email and opened the attachment it contained, you’d be infected. So, don’t open emails that look fishy and definitely don’t open unknown attachments.

If you have effective anti-spam software (e.g. the filter built into Microsoft Outlook 2003) the email would be deleted or filed before you could open it.

If you get infected, it does nasty stuff. It contains its own email engine so it can send itself to everyone in your address book. It also copies itself to directories that are used by peer-to-peer applications like KaZaa, Bearshare or Limewire, where it can easily be passed on to other users.

Second, it opens up a backdoor in your system so hackers can take control of your computer. Then it broadcasts the fact that your machine has been compromised. Nice. This means that the bad guys can use your computer to send spam or stealthily access your data. Of course, if you had a firewall, it couldn’t do this because a firewall blocks unauthorised communication between your machine and the rest of the internet.

Finally, if you were running Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (a free update) and Outlook Express, your computer would have warned you before you opened the infected attachment. This is a good example of why you should keep your software current.

The Three Key Steps

So, class, to recap:

Get anti-virus software

Use a firewall

Regularly check for updates

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