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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protect Your Computer From Hacking Vandals

People who write computer viruses like to call themselves hackers. They invent ridiculous names for themselves and communicate using coded cyber-talk. But despite the decoration, there is no escaping the fact that the writers and deliberate distributors of computer viruses are sad human beings.

If someone takes your personal property -- your television set, your car, your CD collection -- and makes it unusable, that person is a vandal. Vandals are criminals. If someone does the same to your computer, then this person becomes a "hacker."

It is unfortunate that many journalists for whom computer viruses have made good stories like to glamorize hackers. In my view, a lot of these stories are written by people who don't really understand the subject. Receiving such "recognition" only encourages people with partially formed personalities to further acts of malicious damage.

But someone out there, probably right now wearing an unwashed "Iron Maiden" T-shirt, is just waiting to ruin your life. Today it is particularly important to be on guard against computer viruses. If you have recently upgraded to Windows 95, your old virus-free software may not work properly with the new operating system. Moreover, there are already viruses specifically designed to destroy computer systems running Windows 95. Whereas checking for viruses once meant scanning any new diskettes you used, today the task is more complex since many more people are downloading all kinds of binary files from the Internet.

Worse still, there is now a new breed of platform-independent computer viruses, which cause damage to software on computers running a variety of different operating systems. These new viruses use an application's own macro-programming language to distribute themselves.

Unlike previous viruses, macro viruses do not infect programs; they infect documents. At present there are three known macro viruses, and these are designed to corrupt Microsoft Word documents. The three are called the Word Prank Macro, also know as the Concept virus, the DMV virus and the Nuclear virus.

The most potential damage can be caused by the Nuclear virus. After infection, any print job will have the text "STOP ALL FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTING IN THE PACIFIC!" appearing at the end. On April 5 of any year, a PC will have its io.sys and msdos.sys files wiped clean, and the file deleted from its root directory.

The best course of action is to protect yourself against these viruses before they strike. The first step should be to install anti-virus software on your computer that will constantly monitor your system for intrusion by viruses. Software that has to be consciously activated every time a diskette is used or a file is downloaded is impractical.

The big names in anti-virus software have already released programs that protect you against Windows 95 viruses or macro viruses, and these can be downloaded from the Internet for free for evaluation. Also, since new viruses are constantly appearing, it is important to update your anti-virus software regularly.

The price we pay for having access to cheap computers running universal software is that the same access extends to vandals with too much time on their hands. Taking precautions against computer viruses is not a job for someone else or a chore to do when you get time.

Unless you enjoy the prospect of days spent rescuing all of your data, do something about it now.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia. Fax: 929- 9958; internet: