Viruses may prove to be a bigger problem than the Y2K bug

Viruses may prove to be a bigger problem than the Y2K bug

As if the Y2K computer problems aren’t enough to worry about, there’s a new problem on the horizon for personal computers. Anti-virus experts have discovered three computer viruses timed to erase hard drives on January 1 and more viruses may be discovered in the coming weeks.

"It’s a very high-profile time for virus writers," Jim Balderston, with told the Associated Press "On New Year’s they’ll be getting it up on a very big billboard."

Two viruses activate immediately and spread by posing as Microsoft programs that are suppose to fix Y2K problems or count down to the new year. The virus could make computers display an error message symptomatic of a Y2K problem. After users fix the clock system and reboot, the virus then tries to erase data.

Another virus infects Windows computers by using Outlook. An e-mail message says "Here’s some pictures for you!" and comes with an attachment. Running the attachment, labeled pics4you.exe, activates the virus immediately and sets Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser to a porn site.

These New Year viruses are no different than any other computer virus and so you need to take precautions as you would for any virus. Don’t open any e-mail attachments from unknown sources, and you should even check with friends to make sure they sent an attachment that arrived under a familiar address.

Microsoft and leading anti-virus software makers are already making virus-detection products available to consumers. Many of the products are available for 90-day free trials. There are also free updates for these viruses available off the Internet.

It’s too early to tell just how many New Year viruses will be out there. However, anti-virus software makers are likely to know of Y2K viruses well before January 1 and should have updates available for new threats by then. If a new virus appears on January 1, it shouldn’t spread to far or fast because most people are not working on that day.

Computer owners need to take precautions and be prepared. Don Jones, director of year 2000 readiness at Microsoft, said viruses could become the largest New Year’s threat for consumers.

Source: Associated Press

DATE: 12/6/99

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