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Antivirus Software & Firewall

18th Aug 2003

Many of you who are using computers and the Internet may be aware that last week there was a highly publicised virus getting around on the Internet.
It was called several names – but mainly the “Blaster” virus (I know I called it worse than that, having been called to help with some of it’s problems).
What I see as essential to this district is that many of the computers connected to the internet are not fully protected from such viruses.
Most of you have installed Anti-Virus software which is great. Please make sure you keep that software up-to-date with the latest definition files, which you should be able to download.
The new urgency is that you should all be using “FIREWALL” software as well. This new Blaster virus did not come to the computers who were affected via email (the usual of late way of getting infected).
What does Firewall software do? It blocks certain access points from being accessed by external computers (on the Internet).
There are many Commercial and Free Firewalls available. Your nearest Software outlet should be able to supply you with excellent firewalls, or I can even sell you this software, just contact us at Web South. You can also get them from the Internet. If you don’t feel confident finding them on the Internet – a “safe” way to obtain them is from the Computer Magazine CDs at your local Newsagent. When installed, they can be a little hard to understand (even for me) as some of the alerts that they through up about your programs that are trying to access the internet are a little daunting and confusing, but the best you can do is READ and try to digest what it is telling you. For instance, if when you first start running the firewall, it alerts saying that Internet Explorer is trying to access the Internet (and you have just clicked on Internet Explorer) – ask yourself – does this seem right, YES – in this case. So you would click OK and if the alert says “Remember this choice” or some such question or tick box, then you can tick it too.
If you are unsure, try saying NO to it (don’t tick on the remember choice this time – so it will have a chance to ask you again next time – just in case you really do want it to do something), and if whatever you wanted to do doesn’t work – try again and next time say yes! If you are still cautious – don’t tick on the remember button.
The scary thing is when you read in the alerts – that some one has tried to access your computer from the Internet.
It can happen quite often. I personally have had hits from computers in Poland, Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore (to name a few) – most of these times people were trying to install “Trojan Horse/Backdoor” programs which will allow them access at a later date. This is not a good thing to happen to your computer. It would firstly compromise any business computer which may have financial or personal information stored on it.
Please also make sure that you keep your firewall software updated too.
You should be able to find much more information about firewalls and how they work on the Internet.
The main thing is not to get turned off of using the Internet and email, just be observant of what your computer is doing and investigate if it seems to be doing anything strange. Ask your friends what they think and search on the web for ideas too.
I hope this will help everyone to protect themselves from this threat.
Peter Herriman