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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.

Tech Tip: Backing Up

November 12th, 2007 by

Contributed by David Diedriech, Technical Training Coordinator

Backing up your data is the best way to protect yourself against viruses, accidental deletions and overwrites, and other scary computer troubles. The minutes you spend in backing up your files once a day or once a week can save you from hours of frustrating labor reconstructing lost databases, expense records, papers, and research notes.

Backing up is Easy to Do!

Don’t avoid backing up your data regularly because of the mistaken idea that backups are difficult. Some surprising truths about backups include:

• It’s as easy as saving or copying files to a folder. If you don’t know how to save a file to a folder, ask!

• It’s fast. Backups do not take hours to do since you only copy the unique data you’ve created.

• You don’t need special software to do it. All you need is an external drive or storage device (see the list below.)

What Files to Back Up

You should back up any data that you do not wish to lose, or is critical to your job or class. You do not need to back up program files, as they can be re-installed from original CD’s. A few examples of types of files to back up:

• Reports, term papers, letters, or other important documents

• Excel spreadsheets

• Databases, such as Access or FileMaker

• PowerPoint presentation files

• Pictures

• Music files

To make backing up your data easier, you may want to organize your files into one or more discreet folders.

Backup Drives or Devices

The best way to keep your personal data safe is to keep a backup copy of your files in another location. If the document is really important, you may want more than one backup!

Important note: if you are in a DePauw Computer Lab, remember, once you restart a lab system, EVERYTHING IS ERASED! Always save your working copy somewhere else.

Below is a list of some locations for you to back up your critical data:

• Network drives – automatically backed up by IS staff

• I drive: for a specific class (group projects, websites, etc.

• P drive: your own personal storage area (50MB provided)

• Optical (CD-RW, DVD-R) drives

• Large capacity (680MB/CD, 4GB/DVD!)

• Almost all systems have them

• Other “new” methods: USB(flash drives), FireWire drives

• Small, portable, fast!

For more information on backing up your data, visit Microsoft’s website at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/update/backup.mspx