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New viruses can affect UTSA computers

(Jan. 27, 2004)--Antivirus software companies are reporting a new set of e-mail viruses, Mydoom and Novarg, that are being sent as e-mail attachments. Once activated, they open a back door to an infected PC and then launch a denial-of-service attack on some Web sites using the infected computers to clog computer networks.

The good news is that UTSA e-mail in-boxes are protected from viruses and worms. The bad news is that these worms can be introduced to the UTSA network by faculty and staff who check Web-based e-mail services such as Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail. Often these free e-mail clients do not have a high level of anti-virus protection.

A worm is a computer virus that replicates itself without human intervention. If the victim has to open an e-mail attachment to get infected, it's a virus. If it scans for new victims and attacks by itself, it's a worm.

E-mail messages that carry the Mydoom and Novarg worms appear as if they contain an error message. The attachment usually will contain a file with a ".zip" extension. If the user opens (by double-clicking) the attachment, the worm will reside on the computer's hard drive, waiting for instructions from another computer.

How do you protect your computer?

  • Even though your UTSA e-mail in-box is protected, never click on an attachment unless you are certain of the contents and the sender.
  • The "From:" line on an e-mail message may actually appear valid, but some viruses use real e-mail addresses in the messages they generate.
  • In order to protect the UTSA network, you should avoid checking other e-mail accounts from your UTSA computer.

For more information on e-mail viruses and worms, visit the Web sites of anti-virus software makers such as Symantec or McAfee.

If you need help with your UTSA PC, contact the Help Desk at 210-458-5538, or the UTSA Office of Strategic Planning and Computer Security at 210-458-5899.

--Alex Morones

University Communications
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