Archive for Thursday, December 30, 1999

KU OFFICIALS PREPARE FOR COMPUTER VIRUSES

December 30, 1999

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Some experts think viruses may be as much of a problem at the university as any millennium bug.

Kansas University experts will be available during the weekend to help employees and students fight computer viruses possibly infecting their machines beginning Saturday.

Computer experts worldwide say another threat to computer operations may be viruses set to go off Jan. 1.

Marilu Goodyear, vice chancellor for information services, said the additional staff on the computing help line will have anti-virus software available.

"There may be a lot of viruses floating around because of people trying to do interesting things for the New Year," Goodyear said.

The anti-virus software for Windows machines can be downloaded online. The anti-virus software only is available to campus computers and some machines owned by KU employees, Goodyear said.

"My advice to everyone would be don't open attachments to e-mail unless they know the person sending the e-mail," she said. "I'm encouraging everyone to be cautious."

Even limiting opening attachments to friends and relatives may not be a good idea, said Mickey Waxman, a statistics programmer consultant at KU.

Two of the most popular viruses circulating now can read e-mail addresses in computer address books and inboxes and resend themselves automatically, Waxman said.

Some of the viruses being seen by KU computer workers are MyPics and ZippedFiles. Both come as attachments to e-mail, he said.

MyPics promises "pix for you" in its attachment, Waxman said. When the user tries to open a picture file, the virus then runs a program reading through the computer address book and sending similar messages to the first 50 e-mail addresses there.

The software most susceptible to this virus is Internet Explorer 5, Outlook Express and Outlook and the types of address books associated with them.

MyPics formats the computer hard drive wiping out all the files on the computer, including the operating system.

ZippedFiles arrives often as a message using the recipient's name. The message then reads, "I received your e-mail and I shall send you a reply ASAP. Till then, take a look at attached zipped docs," according to the KU computing Web page. The e-mail is signed by the sender's name.

When activated by opening, it sends the same message to all those in a computer user's inbox. It also destroys Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, Waxman said.

Viruses can quickly change, he said. After someone creates a virus, it frequently is sent to friends to experiment with, leading to a variety of viruses.

"There is a taxonomy of these viruses, just as there is of human viruses," Waxman said.

The KU computing help line number is 864-0200. The computing Web site is at www.ukans.edu/computing. There is a link to it from the KU Web site at www.ukans.edu.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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