Antivirus software vendors love viruses. No viruses, no vendors. So how can we trust them when they talk about viruses? When they tell you how you can protect yourself without their software, that’s how.

These four rules are from Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant of Sophos, an Abingdon, England-based vendor of enterprisewide antivirus software.

1. STOP USING WORD.DOC FILES.

According to Cluley, 60 per cent of the viruses in circulation are written in the macros embedded in Word.doc files. RTF (rich text format) files, on the other hand, do not support macros. Cluley suggests changing your default setting to save all text as RTF. No Word.docs, no problemo.

2. DON’T BOOT FROM YOUR A: DRIVE.

Boot-sector viruses account for 25 per cent of the world’s circulating viruses. They jump to your hard disk when you boot up with a forgotten, infected floppy in the A: drive. (You get the message “Non-system disk” and your PC becomes a virus manufacturing plant.) Cluley advises modifying the startup sequence by changing the CMOS control configuration to make the machine boot from the C: — not the A: — drive.

3. BEWARE UNSOLICITED ATTACHMENTS.

But of course, you say. Well, it’s one thing to say it, another to do it, especially when the attachment comes from your old pal, Fred.

Cluley suggests that you make sure all your employees remember that viruses almost always come from someone you know. Of course, they also tend to have bizarre subject lines and may even be in a foreign language. Just remember that it’s very unlikely Fred will suddenly know how to speak Dutch.

4. GIVE FRED A JOB.

Hoaxes are not viruses, but they do eat up time and bandwidth as people e-mail everyone in the enterprise to watch out for a new version of “Important message from…” (the Melissa virus’s calling card). There’s no antihoax software and never will be. Instead, Cluley suggests appointing Fred as virus knowledge holder. If anyone in the enterprise receives a virus warning, forward it to Fred, and it will be Fred’s job to assess it.

Now our addition to Cluley’s list:

5. NEVER TURN YOUR COMPUTER ON. FOOLPROOF.



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