Virus Costs Computer Owners

The twitter.com web company has begun suspending accounts belonging to people whose computers are infected with ‘Koobface’ virus. The virus posts messages using the infected person’s accounts on social networking web sites, such as FaceBook.com, MySpace.com, and Twitter.com. The viral messages contain links, which when clicked spread the virus to the clicking party’s computer.

A news item on Network World summarizes:,

The malware, Koobface, is designed to spread itself by checking to see if person is logged into a social network. It will then post fraudulent messages on the person’s Twitter account trying to entice friends to click the link, which then leads to a malicious Web site that tries to infect the PC….

“Koobface has a long, inglorious history and has been relatively successful at infecting machines,”

Koobface gets instructions from a command-and-control server, which tells the malware which messages to send out. Koobface is dangerous on other levels, however, as it can also steal data from a PC or download other malware.

Keep your computers protected by up to date anti-virus software. For personal computers not used in business, AVG Anti-virus is what we use. For our corporate computers, we buy FRISK software: the owner, Friðrik Skúlason, has been in the anti-virus business since the 1980’s (yes, we were buying from him then) and his corporate pricing is aggressive. We like per computer costs of about $4 better than we like per computer costs of $50, and his product line covers Windows, Exchange, Linux, BSD, Solaris, and IBM eServers. We like that.

Alternative anti-virus programs that we have used successfully include Kapersky Anti-virus, which is available for about $19.95 from Wal-mart, and McAfee anti-virus from many sources at about $40-$50. PC Sheild Deluxe ($19.99), WebRoot ($39.95), BitDefender (3 licenses for $29.95), and CA Antivirus 2009 (3 licenses for $49.99) are other possibilities you may find helpful but with which we do not yet have personal experience.

We have also used Norton anti-virus, available from many sources at about $40-$50, but not successfully: whenever someone complains that they cannot access our servers, most of the time the solution is to remove all Symantic/Norton software with the Norton Software Removal Tool and install any other anti-virus package. We don’t know why, but this always works, and we have heard the same story from other organizations. Perhaps they are still installing DRM (digital rights management) software without a separate dialog box to inform the owner of the impact of installing this software on their computer and to obtain permission. Remember the Department of Homeland Security and the Sony RootKit debacle.

Other opinion on anti-virus software offerings can be found at places such as 2009 software reviews, Extreme Tech, PC Magazine, and others.

With the well publicized conficker virus this spring, it should have become standard practice for all PC users to NOT click just any link. By now people should be upgrading their daily computing environment to Linux or Apple, or the newer Microsoft Vista or Windows 7 release candidate. Truthfully, no one should still be running Windows XP with their user account in administrator mode: common sense tells us it is foolish. But it is irritating to need to log in a different (administrator) account to install something once every blue moon, and people will be people. Until they have lost everything, and it could be literally everything if a trojan on a negligent employee’s notebook computer forwards private customer information to the mafia for resale, they just won’t use common sense.

If people would run something other than Microsoft Windows XP in administrator mode, the problem would be significantly reduced. Until we get a smarter breed of Windows, or a smarter breed of computer users, Twitter has taken the most responsible course of action to protect their service and their customers.

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