Computer systems nationwide were temporarily paralyzed over the weekend by an aggressive, fast-moving virus designed to attack business servers. Des Moines Area Community College information-technology teacher Jeff Gullion says we may never know where the latest attack originated. Gullion says rarely do we know who “made” them, or where they came from, and once they’ve spread through the Internet they become almost untraceable. Less catastrophic viruses attack personal computers one by one, often traveling via e-mail, and one of several varieties detected recently is called “So Big.” Gullion says there are some warning signs you may overlook. He says sometimes you’ll get a mailing from someone you don’t recognize, in the case of the virus SoBig, which comes from someone called “Big at boss.com.” Though viruses can spread themselves, through email programs, Gullion says their success depends largely on help from humans who are careless computer users. Most viruses prey upon people who’ll open strange things, from people they don’t know, and run programs even if they don’t know what they are. Gullion says few viruses can run without a human to trigger them. So far, “sobig” doesn’t damage personal computers like some previous viruses have.Gullion says viruses evolve, however, and hackers sometimes reprogram them to be more destructive, so computer users shouldn’t think they have nothing to fear. The computer-science instructor at DMACC recommends getting a good anti-virus program, and using that program for a frequent scan. Gullion says 2002 was a year of relatively few viruses, but their numbers have increased already this year. In the case of the weekend’s virus-like attack on business systems, Microsoft says it knew of the weak spot and offered a software “fix” months ago, but doesn’t know how many managers used the repair program that would have prevented this attack.
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