We hear so much about email viruses. The most common way for a virus to spread is by
using a worm. What is a worm? A worm is a program that tries to replicate and spread itself.
What easier way can there be to travel from computer to computer than the Internet?
Worms usually come as attachments to email messages. They need to find a way to get
attached to an email.
One strategy to be sent on is to make the recipient send the worm to their friends. People will
open the attachment to have a look, find it amusing and send it on to their friends. This is
how a worm can spread and travel with minimal programming effort.
We also have to consider MAPI (Mail Application Program Interface) -- a Microsoft
development -- it is possible to have an email program perform a number of tasks. The most
important tasks for worms are the possibility to access the address book, to create email
messages with attachments and to be able to send them immediately.
This is the biggest reason that most worms you hear about work only with Outlook and
So doesn't it make sense to just not use Outlook? Well, if everybody stopped using Outlook,
worms would simply be written to use the other email software available. So that isn't the
In the past, it was good advice not to open anything coming from a stranger. Yet, as today's
worms pick their recipients from somebody's address book the senders are likely to be
known. So now, we must learn that we shouldn't open any attachment unless we are
expecting it. This means that every time Aunt Vera sends us a pic of cousin Waldo climbing
the windmill, she has to email us first and let us know that she is sending it. I don't think that's
How about: since worms can only infect you if you open an attachment, just don't open an
attachment! That doesn't make much sense either.
That only leaves us with one choice: Virus Protection Software.
I wish that I didn't have to depend on it. But I do. I use Norton AntiVirus. I purchased it at
Walmart for about $40. Once a week, I log onto symantic.com and update the program. It
takes about 5 minutes.
Does it work? You bet! It has caught several viruses.
Does it have drawbacks? Yep. It slows down my system. But I guess that it is worth it.
Even if you do not have anti-virus software installed, Norton Web site is a treasure chest of
virus information. Check it frequently to find out about hoaxes and real threats, and what to do
about them -- even if you do not own the anti-virus program.