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Fighting Viruses and Spyware

February 20th, 2008 by

contributed by Gary Barcus, Director of Development Services

Last fall Gary Barcus, Director of Development Services, sent an email to his department to help his staff deal with a problem many of us have run into at some point or another — a computer becomes infected by a virus or spyware. His explanation of the problem and his instructions for dealing with the problem were so helpful, we asked Gary for permission to publish it in our newsletter. It follows below:

One of our computers may be infected with a malicious program. Heavier than normal network traffic from our area may point to an infected machine. To safeguard against this infection, we all need to check our Symantec virus scanning and run a spyware detection program on our individual work stations. The IT Help Desk website:

http://www.depauw.edu/it/helpdesk/virusprotection.asp

has links to these services. Each of us should make sure we have Symantec installed and, just as important, configured to receive automatic updates and to run regularly. Please go to the link shown if you do not have Symantec installed. It can be downloaded from a link on that site. You should call the help desk if you have any problems with the installation.

Once it is installed, you should configure Symantec to run automatic virus definition updates and perform a daily scan of your system. Click on the Start button, then All Programs, then Symantec Client Security, then Symantec Antivirus to start the program. OR, click on the Shield on the notification area of the Task Bar in Windows. This is the area to the right of the Task Bar that contains the time and date. The attached word document shows how to configure Symantec after you’ve opened it. Also available on the IT Help Desk site are Spyware detection programs. These find and disable spyware that is loaded on your computer as you browse the internet. This spyware reports your activity to other sites that you visit. In this way, it attempts to exert some level of control over your browser. Wikipedia defines spyware as follows: Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user’s interaction with the computer, without the user’s informed consent.

While the term spyware suggests software that secretly monitors the user’s behavior, the functions of spyware extend well beyond simple monitoring. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, but can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software, redirecting Web browser activity, accessing websites blindly that will cause more harmful viruses, or diverting advertising revenue to a third party. Spyware can even change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and loss of Internet or other programs. In an attempt to increase the understanding of spyware, a more formal classification of its included software types is captured under the term privacy-invasive software:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy-invasive_software

Please be aware that sites like WeatherBug, Coupon Sites, Grokster, and Kazaa often offer free download programs that come with hidden spyware embedded. If you visit a site and download a “free” utility, you may have infected your machine. Run Ad-Aware or Spybot-Search & Destroy on a regular basis to clean this from your system. Better yet, don’t download random software from sites you visit! You should call the help desk if you have serious problems or if you think your machine might be infected.