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Virus Protection


This page is here to help protect faculty, staff, and students against threats from computer viruses, worms, and other forms of malicious code. Note that suggestions regarding external services and products are provided for your convenience and should not be regarded as endorsements or guarantees of reliability. The following topics are presented here:

1. What is a virus?

A computer virus is a small software program that spreads from one computer to another computer and that interferes with computer operation. A computer virus may corrupt or delete data on a computer, use an e-mail program to spread the virus to other computers, or even delete everything on the hard disk.

Computer viruses are most easily spread by attachments in e-mail messages or by instant messaging messages. Therefore, you must never open an e-mail attachment unless you know who sent the message or unless you are expecting the e-mail attachment. Computer viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Computer viruses also spread by using downloads on the Internet. Computer viruses can be hidden in pirated software or in other files or programs that you may download.

2. Symptoms of a computer virus

If you suspect or confirm that your computer is infected with a computer virus, obtain the current antivirus software. The following are some primary indicators that a computer may be infected:

  • the computer runs slower than usual.

  • The computer stops responding, or it locks up frequently.

  • The computer crashes, and then it restarts every few minutes.

  • The computer restarts on its own. Additionally, the computer does not run as usual.

  • Applications on the computer do not work correctly.

  • Disks or disk drives are inaccessible.

  • You cannot print items correctly.

  • You see unusual error messages.

  • You see distorted menus and dialog boxes.

  • There is a double extension on an attachment that you recently opened, such as a .jpg, .vbs, .gif, or .exe. extension.

  • An antivirus program is disabled for no reason. Additionally, the antivirus program cannot be restarted.

  • An antivirus program cannot be installed on the computer, or the antivirus program will not run.

  • New icons appear on the desktop that you did not put there, or the icons are not associated with any recently installed programs.

  • Strange sounds or music plays from the speakers unexpectedly.

  • A program disappears from the computer even though you did not intentionally remove the program.

These are common signs of infection. However, these signs may also be caused by hardware or software problems that have nothing to do with a computer virus. Unless you run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, and then you install industry-standard, up-to-date antivirus software on your computer, you cannot be certain whether a computer is infected with a computer virus or not.

Symptoms of worms and trojan horse viruses in e-mail messages

If you suspect or confirm that your computer is infected with a computer virus, obtain the current antivirus software. The following are some primary indicators that a computer may be infected:

  • he infected file may make copies of itself. This behavior may use up all the free space on the hard disk.

  • A copy of the infected file may be sent to all the addresses in an e-mail address list.

  • The computer virus may reformat the hard disk. This behavior will delete files and programs.

  • The computer virus may install hidden programs, such as pirated software. This pirated software may then be distributed and sold from the computer.

  • The computer virus may reduce security. This could enable intruders to remotely access the computer or the network.

  • You receive an e-mail message that has a strange attachment. When you open the attachment, dialog boxes appear, or a sudden degradation in system performance occurs.

  • Someone tells you that they have recently received e-mail messages from yo that contained attached files that you did not send. The files that are attached to the e-mail messages have extensions such as .exe, .bat, .scr, and .vbs extensions.

Symptoms that may be the result of ordinary Windows functions

A computer virus infection may cause the following problems:

  • Windows does not start even though you have not made any system changes or even though you have not installed or removed any programs.

  • Windows does not start even though you have not made any system changes or even though you have not installed or removed any programs.

  • Windows does not start because certain important system files are missing. Additionally, you receive an error message that lists the missing files.

  • The computer sometimes starts as expected. However, at other times, the computer stops responding before the desktop icons and the taskbar appear.

  • The computer runs very slowly. Additionally, the computer takes longer than expected to start.

  • You receive out-of-memory error messages even though the computer has sufficient RAM.

  • New programs are installed incorrectly.

  • Windows spontaneously restarts unexpectedly.

  • Programs that used to run stop responding frequently. Even if you remove and reinstall the programs, the issue continues to occur.

  • A disk utility such as Scandisk reports multiple serious disk errors.

  • A partition disappears.

  • The computer always stops responding when you try to use Microsoft Office products.

  • You cannot start Windows Task Manager.

  • Antivirus software indicates that a computer virus is present.

Note: These problems may also occur because of ordinary Windows functions or problems in Windows that are not caused by a computer virus.

3. How to remove a computer virus?

Even for an expert, removing a computer virus can be a difficult task without the help of computer virus removal tools. Some computer viruses and other unwanted software, such as spyware, even reinstall themselves after the viruses have been detected and removed. Fortunately, by updating the computer and by using antivirus tools, you can help permanently remove unwanted software.

To remove a computer virus, follow these steps:

  1. Install the latest updates from Microsoft Update on the computer.

  2. Update the antivirus software on the computer. Then, perform a thorough scan of the computer by using the antivirus software.

  3. Download, install, and then run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool to remove existing viruses on the computer. To download the Malicious Software Removal Tool, visit the following Microsoft Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx

For more information about how to protect a computer against viruses, visit the following Microsoft Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/default.mspx

Get help. If you receive mail that you believe contains a virus, or think your machine may already be infected with a virus, contact ITSS at (225) 771-4987 or (225) 771-5814. Help Desk locations and hours are available on the ITSS page.

4. I think I received a virus in my e-mail. What should I do?

First, never open an attachment unless you are absolutely sure it is from a reliable source. Infected e-mail messages often invite you to click on an attached file. Don't be tempted! The attachments are most likely viruses that will infect your computer. In some cases it's easy to see that the message is just "junk" mail. But messages often appear to originate from an "official" source such as Microsoft, Southern University Law Center, or Admin@sulc.edu. Just remember that official sources such as SULC, ITSS, and Microsoft Corporation never send patches or fixes as e-mail attachments. If you are in doubt about any message you receive, contact ITSS at (225) 771-4987 or (225) 771-5814.

To get assistance with a virus infection, contact ITSS at (225) 771-4987 or (225) 771-5814. Help Desk locations and hours are available on the ITSS page.

To report a virus received through e-mail, follow the reporting instructions located on the ITSS page.

Please do not forward e-mail containing a virus, or suspected virus, to any address other than virus@sulc.edu.

5. Where can I find the latest news about viruses?

There are many ways to find out about the latest viruses; below is a list of information sources. Some provide general information, while others are more technical. We recommend that you review all of them and use the sources that are most helpful and convenient.

Visit Sophos Ltd:
http://www.sophos.com/

Computer Emergency Response Team at Carnegie-Mellon University (CERT):
http://www.cert.org/

F-Secure Corporation Virus News:
http://www.f-secure.com/

IBM Antivirus Research - Scientific Papers:
http://www.research.ibm.com/antivirus/SciPapers.htm

When a virus or worm has a significant impact at SULC, an additional alert may be posted on the ITSS home page.

6. Is virus protection software available?

SULC has Sophos Endpoint Security and Control software installed on all computers in the Law Center. Additional anti-virus software may be purchased for personal use from various computer stores.

7. I installed virus protection; is my computer safe now?

Not necessarily. You also need to download updates called "virus definitions" or "DAT files" on a regular basis. Experts recommend that you download updates at least once a week and more frequently if you hear that a virus is spreading. The Sophos Endpoint Security and Control software can be easily customized to automatically download updates every week at a time that's convenient for you.

In addition to virus protection, you also need to make sure your computer has all of the latest security updates. See the safe computing page for important instructions.

8. How do I update my virus protection? How often?

Immediately after installation of Sophos Endpoint Security and Control software and periodically thereafter you must run Sophos Update, a component of the software, to update your virus definition files. Failure to update your virus definition files will leave your computer vulnerable to new viruses. Experts recommend that you download updates at least once a week, and more frequently if you hear that a virus is spreading.

8. How do I update my virus protection? How often?

Immediately after installation of Sophos Endpoint Security and Control software and periodically thereafter you must run Sophos Update, a component of the software, to update your virus definition files. Failure to update your virus definition files will leave your computer vulnerable to new viruses. Experts recommend that you download updates at least once a week, and more frequently if you hear that a virus is spreading.

9. How can I tell if it's a hoax?

Hoaxes involve phony announcements, warnings, or instructions.

One recent type of hoax involves e-mail that purports to come from an official source, but is in fact a virus. Often infected e-mail messages that appear to originate from an "official" source such as Microsoft, SULC, or Admin@sulc.edu invite you to click on an attached file. You should never open an attachment such as this, because it is most likely a virus that will infect your computer. Just remember that official sources such as SULC, ITSS, and Microsoft Corporation never send patches or fixes as e-mail attachments.

If you receive an e-mail message that suggests you forward it to everyone you know, it's probably either a hoax or a chain letter. Distributing chain letters is against University policy, so don't send these messages to others.

Before distributing some dire warning to all of your friends or mailing lists, we recommend that you make sure it is not a hoax. Here are sources of information about hoaxes and myths:

Hoax Encyclopedia from About.com:
http://antivirus.about.com/library/blenhoax.htm

F-Secure Corporation Security Information Center, Hoax Warnings:
http://www.f-secure.com/virus-info/hoax/

Hoaxbusters: A public service of the CIAC Team and the U.S. Department of Energy:
http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/

If you are in doubt about any message you receive, contact ITSS at (225) 771-4987 or (225) 771-5814.

10. What other resources are available?

See the safe computing page for important instructions.

Check Google groups for Usenet discussion forums on computing and other issues.

See the Stay Safe Online Web site for additional tips on computer security. - http://www.staysafeonline.info/

11. How do I get help?

To get assistance with a virus infection, contact ITSS at (225) 771-4987 or (225) 771-5814. For locations and hours, see the ITSS page.

To report a virus received through e-mail, follow the reporting instructions ITSS page.

Please do not forward e-mail containing a virus, or suspected virus, to any address other than virus@sulc.edu.