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Virus Protection - some simple methods - Cliff Lamere








Virus Protection - 3 Simple Methods


Cliff Lamere   6 May 2001

Revised  27 Jun & 27 Oct 2001


The following three protective measures have never been discussed on any mailing list to which I subscribe.  I have corresponded with knowledgeable people before writing this webpage.

First Method

In the summer of 2000, I bought a new Dell computer, and then began my website.  I received a lot of emails with attachments, and I also got several viruses.  After taking the steps outlined below, Norton detected incoming viruses on two occasions, so it is safe to say that some or all of the viruses my computer had earlier contracted came from emails.  


About February 2001, I decided to investigate the settings of my Norton Antivirus 2000.  I was surprised to find an option that allowed Norton to check all new emails (with or without attachments).  Why in the world would that option be available, but not in use, when you buy a Dell computer that has Norton Antivirus on it?  It took me many months to find the option on my own, but only after wrestling many times with virurses.  


If you buy the program and install it yourself, there is an option for checking email which you are asked if you want to choose (and Norton recommends the choice).  Dell Corporation, however, sends their computers out without making this choice for us.  I have been told that an antivirus interferes with some system checks that are done to make sure the computer is working correctly before being shipped.  Therefore, this option is not chosen by Dell and perhaps other computer manufacturers.  But, when they get done with the checks, they fail to turn it on.  Possibly, Dell does not believe that we need protection from virus-containing email attachments (the most common way that most of us receive viruses).  Or possibly, there is some other reason that they don't turn it on.   


One lady told me that checking emails for viruses can interfere with downloading your email from certain internet service providers.  So, if you follow the instructions below, and your email stops arriving, you will know why.  Then, you should undo the changes, but you should also consider getting a new ISP, one which will allow you to have your antivirus check your incoming email.  The lady blames Norton, but most ISP's don't have this problem, so it is not entirely their fault.

Follow these instructions to have Norton start checking incoming email.

Open Norton Antivirus 2000.
Click on Options
Click on Email Protection
Click in the box which says "Enable Email Protection (recommended)"

Make sure a checkmark is in the box in front of the name of any email program that you use


While you have this open, now click on "Manual Scans" in the left column.  In the box that appears, find "File types to scan".  Make sure there is a black dot in the circle before "All files".  If not, click the circle so that the dot appears.

Next, click on "Auto-Protect" in the left column, then make sure "All files" has the black dot.

Click on OK, then exit the program.

The majority of people would never find this on their own.  Dell, and possibly other computer manufacturers  should at least give us a warning that we are buying an antivirus from them which is disabled in such an important way.  

If you use a different version of Norton, go to their website get directions to scan all files.  In addition, you will still have to make sure Norton is checking email.  If you don't use Norton, you should check to see if your antivirus program has a similar feature.



Second Method

Even if you are expecting an attachment, you can't tell if it will contain a virus without checking it.  The person sending it may have a computer virus without knowing it.  There is an important protective step that you can take.  


Don't open the attachment.  Instead, Save it somewhere on your harddrive or onto a floppy disk (you must remember where it is being saved).  Then, open your antivirus, and check that file for a virus.  If the antivirus doesn't find a virus, open the software that would be able to read that file, then open the copy of the file on your harddrive or floppy disk.  The reason for this is to make sure that you actually saved the attachment, not just the email without the attachment.  If the attachment wasn't saved, then the antivirus couldn't check it.  


This method will only work if you actually save the attachment.  In Netscape, when you click on an attachment of a type that could contain a virus, a screen pops up to ask if you prefer to open it or save it.  If you simply go to File / Save, all that does is save the heading and text of the email, plus the name of the attachment (but not the attachment itself).


Before facing the problem of what to do with an incoming attachment, send yourself an attachment and then try saving it after you receive it.  This way you can learn what to do when an attachment from a friend or stranger arrives.



Third Method

A friend of mine who works with computers everyday suggested the following.  He told me that many of the viruses are written in Java or JavaScript, so you can protect yourself from those by simply not being willing to receive anything written in those languages.  He and I both use Netscape.  My version is 4.73 at the time of this writing.  Here is what you can do in Netscape.

Click on Edit
Click on Preferences
Click on Advanced
Make sure that "Enable Java" and "Enable JavaScript" do not have checkmarks in the boxes in front of

    them.  If they do, click on the checkmark and it will disappear.

Three weeks after I did that, on one occasion while surfing the internet I have received a message that said that I would have to enable JavaScript in order to proceed to the next step.  It wasn't very important to see, so I didn't change my setting.  When you get such an error message, you can temporarily change the setting if you want to.  That might be much better than receiving viruses written in Java or JavaScript.


However, an occasional other quirk may happen such as when I was online at the Making of America website at Cornell University.   You can look at images of book pages at that site.  Or, you can choose to look at the pages as text (which can be copied and pasted onto your computer).  The text feature did not work until I enabled the JavaScript option temporarily.  No message told me why the text wouldn't appear.

For Internet Explorer 5 you can do the following:

Click on Tools
Click on Internet Options
Click on Security
Click on Custom Level
Browse down to Java
Under Java Permissions, make sure that a dot is in the circle before "Disable Java".


If you don't like the idea of turning Java or Java Script on and off, then you will have to do without this method of protection.



Comment:  In response to this same information that I sent to a mailing list, someone suggested that if you have your antivirus program set to check incoming email, you  won't need to disable Java.   I disagree because of the following thing that happened to me.


A lady sent me an email (I was one of about 10 people she sent it to simultaneously).  She sent no attachment, and it had no visible attachment when I received it.  Yet, it took a long time to open and eventually Norton announced that there was a virus in this email.  I had it erase the virus, but I didn't get the usual confirmation that it had happened.  About three days later, Norton found that virus on my computer.  Norton erased it, and I haven't heard anything about the virus again. 


My point is this.  If the option to scan email didn't protect me from the virus, perhaps disabling the Java would have.  There is value in doing both, but it depends on the kinds of things that you do on the internet.


Disclaimer:  Many of you know more about viruses than I do.  I have never seen the suggestions above made anyplace else.  I cannot guarantee that you will get complete protection if you use them, but you should have better protection, at least.


Cliff Lamere   Albany, NY

   Email me if you have corrections.  Please don't ask for advice.  I don't know more about this.



                                                                   Visitors since 6 May 2001