The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 20th

Computer Virus Commits Party Foul

The virus sends copies of itself to every e-mail address in an infected computer's address book, said Jeanne Smythe, the director of computing policy at Academic Technology & Networks.

Although opening the e-mail message does not infect the computer, opening the attachment can transmit the virus.

Smythe explained how the virus works. "You're going to get a message that says 'new photos from my party' from someone you know," she said. "This spreads fairly quickly."

But the virus is not very destructive, Smythe said. Its main effect is keeping people's computers busy.

Some students received the virus-carrying e-mail multiple times as it spread, partly because the virus found its way into campus listservs.

"I got it like 10 times," said freshman Kristin English. "I don't even know some of the people I got it from."

ATN was first alerted to the virus on Monday morning, Smythe said. In response, the office updated its Web site and put a related message on the computer tech support line at 962-HELP. About 40 students contacted ATN Tuesday to report problems with the virus.

Smythe said removing the virus from an infected machine is not difficult. "Download the latest virus definition files, scan your computer and delete the detected files," she said.

A list of specific virus files and specific instructions on how to remove the virus from an infected computer are listed on ATN's virus Web site at www.unc.edu/atn/virus. The site also contains ways for students to protect their computers from future viruses.

"We will get a few requests for help (with viruses) every day," Smythe said. "There's lots and lots of viruses out there and they're constantly coming out with new ones."

Major viruses only strike the campus a few times a year, Smythe said, but old viruses still pop up from time to time.

When viruses do appear, they are transmitted very quickly on campus because so many people communicate by e-mail, Smythe said.

Some students said they have developed ways of avoiding viruses. "I don't open e-mails when I don't know the sender," said junior Kerrick Faulkner.

But worm viruses like "My Party" proliferate through infected users' e-mail address books, meaning that a virus can appear to be sent by a friend.

Smythe said a good way to defend against viruses is to run LiveUpdate, which is an update released periodically to Norton Antivirus to help the program recognize new viruses.

"On campus, it takes just a minute or two to do that," Smythe said. "It's something everyone should do regularly."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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