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  FAQ > Virus



I just got this virus warning in e-mail. How can I tell if it's true?
Well, the easiest way is to ask us. Call Bakersfield College
Information Services at x4084 and we'll try to track down the real
scoop, if we don't know already. We share information about new
viruses, and most of the time we're pretty well on top of any reported
outbreaks before they reach the West Coast.

With a little effort, though, you can turn yourself into a virus-hoax
detective and amaze your friends and co-workers with your computer
knowledge.

Here are some clues to look for in distinguishing a virus hoax from a
real warning.

First of all, the following "viruses" are actually hoaxes, fake warnings
sent out just to cause trouble:

Wobbler AOL4Free Good Times Penpal Greetings Join the Crew
"It Takes Guts to say Jesus" Elf Bowling Win a Holiday


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This warning isn't about one of those. Is it for real?
Well, you can check it yourself, on-line, in just a few seconds. Virus
warnings are posted at sites like:

http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/
http://www.commandcom.com/
http://www.f-secure.com/virus-info/

And if the virus isn't shown there, check out their "hoaxes" links, or
try

http://www.snopes.com

(This is a truly wonderful site with lots of "urban legend" information,
and they have a special "inboxer rebellion" section for e-mail hoaxes.
They cover not only the latest virus hoaxes, but also debunk the related
"win a car by forwarding this message" type of scams, the Internet-tax
baloney, and the secret of what's in KFC's product. Hint: it really IS
chicken.)


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How can I be sure it's a hoax?
There are clues in virus hoax e-mails that should set off warning bells
in your mind.

*If the message says "Send this message to all your friends," or
"Forward this letter to as many people as you can," it's a hoax.
Legitimate virus warnings tell YOU what to do to protect yourself. The
practical jokers who write these phony warnings just want you to waste
your time and others' by forwarding useless messages.

*If the message says "IBM and AOL have announced" (or Microsoft, or any
other Big, Mysterious Organization), it's probably a hoax. IBM does
send out warnings--to its own employees. Real virus warnings to the
public come from companies like Symantec or other antivirus providers.

*If the message says "it is very powerful, more so than Melissa, there
is no remedy" or something similar, it's probably a hoax. Viruses ARE
getting worse, and virus writers are getting sneakier. One virus was
sent out pretending to be a cure for another virus, for example.
However, calling the threat the "worst ever" is a standard way that
hoaxers manipulate their victims.


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Shouldn't I send the warning on anyway, just to be safe?
Remember the boy who cried wolf?

BCIS hears of dozens of new viruses every month. Most don't pose much
of a threat to our users, and we just make sure your antivirus software
is up-to-date. (BC uses Inoculan, which puts a little green "heartbeat"
symbol in the lower right corner of your screen. Put your mouse pointer
over the symbol for two seconds and you should see the words "Monitor
both incoming and outgoing files." This means the program is doing its
job.)

Once in a while, though, a virus or worm like "LoveLetterForYou" sneaks
in, and we send out a warning. If that warning is ignored because the
user has seen too many frantic messages about imaginary viruses, someone
may lose important files. Worse, these viruses spread FAST if you don't
get the word out.

In the case of virus hoaxes, the message IS the virus. Think of these
phony warnings as viruses which infect the user, not the computer. The
people who wrote them are wasting your time, hoping that you'll fall for
the joke and pass it on to others. If you do, they win. Don't let them
win.

One more note about both virus warnings and "too-good-to-be-true" e-mail
messages. Remember those messages where you have to wade through dozens
of "forward" headers to get to the warning/joke/offer itself? The
messages eventually contain dozens upon dozens of e-mail addresses, and
the chain makes it clear which persons correspond with which. Why give
such personal information to a potential spammer? Every time you
forward a message like this, it makes your e-mail address that much less
secure, and that much more likely that someone will see you as a
potential customer for their particular get-rich-quick scheme.

If you HAVE to send it on, forward it to us first. It generally takes
only a few minutes to confirm or deny a virus, and who knows? You may
be the first one to notify us of a REAL virus threat. We can pass along
the warning much faster than you can, and notify other colleges as
well.


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Should I be mad at the person who sent me the hoax?
Everyone gets fooled sometimes. Some virus hoaxes get loose in company
distribution lists because managers take the "better safe than sorry"
approach. The originators of the story are long gone by the time you
see it. Instead of getting mad, get even--let the person who sent you
the message know he's been fooled and point him to this page. That way,
the next time a ludicrous virus story makes its rounds, you can both
send it straight to the trashcan and congratulate yourself on your
computer knowledge.


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I think I have a virus on my computer! Help!
First of all, if a virus-warning message popped up on your screen, that's a GOOD thing! It means your antivirus program is operating the way it should, protecting you against computer viruses.
Read the message carefully. Some messages need immediate attention, others don't.

BC uses the InoculateIT antivirus software. This software, when running, puts a little dark blue square, with an animated "heartbeat" symbol inside it, in the lower left corner of your screen(If you have a green square that isn't animated, please call us to get the newest version). If you put your mousepointer over the square for about two seconds, you should see the message "Monitoring both incoming and outgoing files." (If it says "Realtime monitoring disabled," call us--your program is either outdated or set up wrong.)

Some copies of Inoculan are set up to keep a copy of any viruses it finds in the so-called "Virus" or "Move" directory. If the warning message you see mentions "Action cancelled--virus is in the move directory," that means that Inoculan has already dealt with the problem. (Unfortunately, the warning comes up every so often until the
virus itself is deleted. Call us and we can help you get rid of it.)

If the message you see says "Virus Cured," you're also homefree--Inoculan removed the virus and it's no longer a problem.

If it says "Cure failed," that's an indication that you need help. Give BCIS a call and we'll either talk you through the next steps, or come
out personally to deal with the problem.


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How did I get the virus?
These days there are two types of viruses frequently seen: macro
viruses, which attach themselves to Word documents, Excel spreadsheets,
and Access databases primarily, and so-called "worms" which come in as
attachments to e-mail.

In fact, now that files are being sent routinely from one office to
another via e-mail, probably 99% of all viruses come in through messages
from someone you correspond with.

If you receive an infected file in e-mail (that is, if Inoculan warned
you about an e-mail message you just opened) then the person who SENT
you the message should be warned. If that person is on-campus, you
should also call BCIS to let us know that person's antivirus isn't
working correctly.

The two types of viruses do different things. Macro viruses usually
mess up the document they are attached to, then infect the program
itself (Word, for instance) and finally infect any other Word documents
you create or modify after getting infected. The sooner they are dealt
with, the fewer files will be infected.

Worms are different. They are actual programs which do destructive
things to your computer. Some delete or copy over certain kinds of
files--photographs and sound files received over the Internet, for
example.

Others "infect" Windows itself and can make it impossible to start
Windows at all, unless they are carefully cleaned.

Most all attempt to send themselves on to new victims, typically using a
security loophole in Microsoft Outlook to do so.


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I think I have a virus because my computer is acting funny...
Lots of things can go wrong with a computer that have nothing to do with
viruses. You can check your computer for viruses yourself by doing the
following:

1. Click on "Start."
2. Click on "Programs."
3. Click on "Inoculan for Windows NT"
4. Click on "Inoculan for Windows NT"
5. Click on "Local Scanner" button
6. Click on the triangle to "Start/Continue scanning."

If the program does find viruses, it will ask your permission to clean
them. Like the "realtime" version of the program, it will either cure,
delete, or rename the files depending on how it is set up. Chances are,
that even if your machine is cleaned of such viruses, your problems may
remain.

Most of the time, problems with a computer are NOT caused by viruses.
Call in a job report and BCIS will send someone to fix whatever the
problem is.


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I got a warning about an e-mail, now what do I do?
That depends on what Inoculan did to handle the situation. If Inoculan
deleted the infected file, you're protected--although you cannot use the
file any more, of course. This is the best way to handle "worm" files
which don't have any real value.

Some versions of Inoculan simply rename the file to one with an
extension of ".AVB" at the end. This keeps the file from being
activated, but it's still there. Inoculan will periodically warn you
that the file is infected. Call BCIS for details on how to get rid of
it. (If you use Netscape for e-mail, this option can keep you from
reading other e-mails as well. Call BCIS and we'll help you recover the
messages.)

Inoculan will try to "cure" a file with Macro viruses. If the cure is
successful, the file is now "clean" and may be used without any
problems. If not, Inoculan will either rename the file or delete it.

What you should NOT do, is open a file you suspect is infected. Take as
an example the "LoveLetter" worm which was passed around in summer
2000. Warnings from BCIS enabled many users to spot the worm by its
telltale "Subject" line even though the antivirus was not yet aware of
its existence.

The correct thing to do with such a virus, once identified, is get rid
of it! Click once (ONLY ONCE) on the e-mail message so that it's
"highlighted," and then press the "Delete" key. Once it's deleted, it
won't be activated.

(Remember to "empty" your e-mail program's trash can afterwards, so you
don't accidentally revive it later).


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IS Mission Statement

The Information Services department's goal is to provide a reliable technological environment that allows students, faculty and staff to carry out the mission of the college more efficiently.

Information Services provides the leadership in technological solutions for Bakersfield College. It maintains the data network infrastructure, all computer software and hardware and provides training to staff and faculty on matters of technology.