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Viruses and Email Attachments
How to Protect Yourself

The most common transmission method of viruses currently is by email. Unsuspecting computer users receive an email virus, they accidentally infect their own computer system and especially with Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express they send emails containing the virus to all their contacts in their address book. The spread of a virus this way works simply by exploiting problems within a specific email program. Currently, the program everyone wants to attack and take advantage of is Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express. That's because its one of the most popular and common email programs used, however if there was a program more popular it would be targeted. By following the steps below, you will minimize the risk of infecting your computer with a virus attachment.

 

Step 1: Don't Hide
File Extensions

On most Windows 95/98 computers, the operating system won't automatically show you ALL the files, it hides system and hidden files from the user show they won't be accidentally deleted. However receiving an email attachment, this may cause more harm than good. Follow these steps to set your computer to show all files.

  • Double-click on My Computer
  • Click on View, then click on Options or Folder Options at the bottom of the menu
  • Click on the View Tab
  • Change the setting under Hidden Files to SHOW ALL FILES
  • Uncheck the Setting "Hide File Extensions For Known File Types"

This will allow all files to be shown with their correct filenames

Step 2: Be Careful with Attachments

Even if the e-mail is from a known source, be careful. A few viruses take the address books from an infected computer and send out new messages with its destructive payload attached. Always scan the attached files first for viruses. Unless it's a file or an image you are expecting, delete it. However, a good rule of thumb is NEVER open an attachment that you're unsure about even if it came from a friend. Ask them about it first.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook, download the security patch to prevent viruses from opening via attachments.

As a footnote, you should never need to open any file with a .vbs extension. This is a scripting file that most likely will do harm to your system. The ILOVEYOU virus and copycats all had .vbs extensions.

Step 3: Use HTML
Email Sparingly

Although HTML email has its advantages with changing fonts, colors, and including pictures in email. It also has major disadvantages. Viruses can hide in the HTML coding of the email. When you preview the message in your email program, the virus is activated. These types of viruses can infect a computer system just by previewing the message. The VBS Bubbleboy virus and the KAK Worm use this method to infect your system.

Therefore, to protect yourself fully, either turn off the HTML sending and receiving ability of your email altogether or set your email program to NOT preview messages or to just preview this first couple lines of an email. However, the best alternative is to use a email program like Courier by Rose City Software that allows you to disable all sending and receiving of HTML emails.

Step 4: Disable Windows Scripting Host

All the versions of the ILOVEYOU worm and the NewLove worm use the same programming language called Windows Scripting Host (WSH). It is designed to let you automate tasks on your computer but has not been very widely used. WSH is an optional part of Windows 95 and 98 that can be removed from your computer. Once it's removed then the "Love" viruses can't do their dirty work—but then neither can any other systems that use the WSH.

To combat these viruses, you could disable the Windows Scripting Host ability, but that may also effect your system in other negative ways.

To Read About the Pros and Cons of Disabling the Windows Scripting Host, Click Here

Another option is to install a program that alerts you when scripts are going to run on your computer and to stop them before they run. One such program is AnalogX's Script Defender, a nifty little protection program.

Follow the procedures below to Disable the Windows Scripting Host, but be careful, this may negatively affect other programs in your system.

Windows 95
Note: Not all users of Windows 95 will have Windows Scripting Host installed. It is available on editions of Windows 95 SR-2 and later. It might also have been installed separately or along with Internet Explorer 5.0 or later.

  • Open "My Computer"
  • Select "View/Options"
  • Click on File Types tab
  • Find VBScript Script File
  • Select Remove
  • Click OK

Windows 98

  • Click on Start (the button on lower left of your Windows desktop).
  • Click on Settings
  • Chose Control Panel
  • Click on Add/Remove
  • Chose the Windows Setup tab
  • Click on Accessories to obtain details
  • Uncheck Windows Scripting Host if it is checked.
  • Click on OK to save any changes

Windows NT

  • Open "My Computer"
  • Select "View/Options"
  • Click on File Types tab
  • Find VBScript Script File
  • Select Remove
  • Click OK

Windows 2000

  • Open "My Computer"
  • Select "Tools/Folder Options"
  • Click on File Types tab
  • Find VBScript Script File
  • Select Delete
  • Click OK

 

Step 4: Disable File and Printer Sharing

The single most vulnerable connection to the outside world is through the use of File and Printer Sharing in Windows. Click on the following link to read about this vulnerability and how to protect yourself.

Computer Security and the Internet:
How Secure is Your Computer

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