Five ways to guard against e-mail viruses



From Roger Pence's AS/400 Letter on Windows, Workgroups and the Web, May 15, 2000. Provided courtesy of The 400 Group.

  1. Don't use Outlook and Outlook Express. This may not be realistic advice in the real world, but you should at least use Love Bug as a reason to re-evaluate what your shop standards are for e-mail clients. Viruses often target Outlook and/or Outlook Express; using other clients minimizes your exposure. Beware, though, that avoiding Outlook isn't unconditional protection. Love Bug required Outlook to replicate itself but was able to damage PCs in the absence of Outlook.

  2. Make all users aware of the dangers of unsolicited attachments. E- mail viruses rely on users opening infected attachments. All e-mail users must understand the potential consequences of opening attachments from bad guys.

    As a further reminder of how dangerous attachments can be, consider creating an incoming mail rule in Outlook that directs all e-mails with attachments to an attachments-specific folder. I now use an Outlook rule that directs mail with attachments to a folder called BeCareful. Putting mail with attachments in this folder doesn't make it impossible to launch them, but it does help provide me with a constant reminder that e-mails with attachments should be treated with special care.

  3. Use antivirus software and keep it current. Antivirus software isn't foolproof: Early in Love Bug's life antivirus software offered no protection against the virus because it hadn't yet been identified as a virus. Despite a potential limitation on late-breaking viruses, good antivirus protection is mandatory! Get an enterprise antivirus subscription and keep it current. Also, virtually all antivirus vendors offer e-mail services to update you with late-breaking virus news. (See URLs below.)

  4. Be aware of the need for secondary virus fixes. Even after McAfee's antivirus software had removed infected files from my PC, I still had residual entries in my registry. To fix such spurious side effects, you'll often need to run adjunct software to fully rehabilitate infected PCs. Norton has published a free secondary fix called FIXLOVE.EXE on its Web site that worked for me. (See URL below.)

  5. Disable the Windows Scripting Host. The Windows Scripting Host (WSH) is Windows' solution for a robust batch processor -- it is primarily a replacement for DOS BAT files. WSH not only provides a rich scripting language (using either VBScript or JavaScript), but it also exposes all of Windows COM objects. These COM objects provide the clever WSH programmer keys to your Windows kingdom.

    Unless you have a specific need for WSH (and you probably don't), disable this way:
    1. Open the Control Panel.
    2. Open the Add/Remove Programs applet.
    3. Click the Windows Set-up tab.
    4. Double-click Accessories.
    5. Deselect Windows Scripting Host shown in the Accessories list. If it isn't already selected or present, it currently isn't installed on your system.
    6. Click OK twice.

Web sites and other references

FixLove.EXE to repair Love Bug-damaged Windows registry http://www.sarc.com

Symantec site with Love Bug virus details http://www.sarc.com/avcenter/venc/data/vbs.loveletter.a.html

Symantec virus e-mail newsletter http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/newsletter.html

McAfee antivirus Web site (and e-mail alert subscription) http://www.mcafee.com/default2.asp


Related book

Internet E-mail : Protocols, Standards and Implementation
Author : Lawrence Hughes
Publisher : Artech House
ISBN/CODE : 0890069395
Cover Type : Hard Cover
Pages : 456
Published : July 2000
Summary:
Strengthen your knowledge of the basic concepts and technical details necessary to develop, implement, or debug e-mail software with this practical new reference. Authored by a recognized expert in creating and developing successful Internet e-mail servers, the book explains the underlying technology and describes the key protocols and extensions associated with Internet e-mail, including SMTP, POP3, IMAP, MIME, DSN and more.


This was first published in July 2000
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