One of the most common concerns we hear is regarding computer viruses and how they are spread. We've all received warnings about some new virus, which is supposedly circulating via e-mail. Usually these warn you about opening e-mail titled "free vacation," or something similar. The warning goes on to report how reading the "free vacation" e-mail will infect your computer with a virus and erase your hard drive, etc.
These notices are hoaxes 99.9 percent of the time. I like to refer to these as "cry wolf" viruses. While not actually a virus, the purpose is the same–to cause you wasted time, frustration, and disruption.
An actual virus is a small program that gets into your computer and disrupts the operation of the computer. It may be playful (it writes unwanted messages to your screen), or downright destructive (causing loss of data and in some cases loss of your hard drive).
There is, according to a recent announcement from Microsoft and Netscape, a flaw in their programs which could allow a virus to infect your computer by just reading e-mail. There has been a great deal of press coverage, but to date there has not been a single case of it actually happening. However, the fear is that, spurred on by the press coverage, some hacker will give it a try.
The most common way to transmit viruses, however, is via an e-mail attachment. NEVER download and run an attachment unless it is from someone who you know and trust. It is highly unlikely that you'll get a virus from any commercial site. These sites are monitored constantly by their owners. But pranksters will sometimes send out "spam" mail containing viruses, so if you don't know the person sending you the file, don't download it. Another common method of transmitting viruses is on floppy disks. If you get a copy of something from someone on a floppy, you should check the disk with a good anti-virus program before you install or copy anything from the disk to your computer.
The best way to protect your computer from a virus is to install anti-virus software. There are several good programs available for this purpose. Norton Anti-Virus, McCaffee, and Dr. Solomon are just a few. Once installed, these programs will monitor activity on your computer and will catch any virus-type activity and stop the virus before it can do any damage to your system. Don't forget to keep your virus program updated.
There are new viruses found all the time, and all of these programs include online downloads to update your virus definition files. Be sure your program can catch the latest viruses. The program can't detect a virus that it doesn't know about, so the updates are critical to maintaining protection.
The Internet and e-mail provide us with extremely useful tools for communicating, staying informed, and conducting business. With a little care and caution you can reap the benefits at a minimum of risk.
Until next month, be safe and keep the sunny side up. LL
This Month's Sites. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This month, our featured site is from Steven Graham. Steve is a trucker who had to leave his chosen profession after 25 years on the road due to ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. This terminal disease affects the nervous system, so it has taken Steve months to put together this site. You'll find information here on Steve's life as a trucker, on Lou Gehrig's disease, and on Steve's day-to-day trials and tribulations. I found the site both heartwarming and inspirational. I'm sure you'll also be inspired by his courage and good humor in the face of the ultimate trial. Here's a site that really reflects what truckers are made of.http://members.tripod.com/~StevenGraham
Truckers Helping Truckers - Matthew Cummings was at a truckstop in Amarillo, TX when he was approached by a man demanding his wallet and keys. When Matthew refused, the man doused Matthew with lighter fluid or gasoline and lit him on fire. Matthew was flown to a burn center. In order to help Matthew through this time of disaster, a "Help Matthew" fund has been set up and information on this fund is available on several trucking sites. If you'd like more info on this please checkwww.trkrhelp.net/matthew.htm
Here's a trucker's page with links to a variety of other truck-related sites. It is a fun stop on the Internet.http://members.tripod.com/~imax4/
Looking for a truckstop that's computer friendly? Check out a complete list of truckstops throughout the country that offer easy connection to the Internet at www.layover.com/friend.htm
Have a page of your own or a favorite trucking website? We welcome your suggestions for sites to include in this column. We are interested in sites/homepages of OOIDA members. To submit sites for consideration e-mail the site address to email@example.com.