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E-mail infection underscores need to protect your PC


Computer owners and e-mail users probably have already heard the warning of a new and potentially destructive virus now making the rounds via e-mail.

An infection called The ExploreZip is being spread across the Internet as an e-mail attachment.

An attachment is a file that e-mail users can send along with a regular e-mail message.

But ExploreZip is software worm, and not a virus since it does not replicate itself, according to news reports.

ExploreZip shows up in a e-mail users' mailbox as a friendly message that reads: ``Hi (user name)! I received your email and I shall send you a reply ASAP. Till then, take a look at the attached zipped docs."

The attachment is a "zipped" or compressed file that expands, or uncompresses to become the worm program, which then can damage the computer's hard drive.

It reportedly finds and deletes files created by a number of popular computer programs, including Microsoft Outlook, Express and others.

ExploreZip is the third e-mail infection to make national news since March, when the Melissa virus arrived. In April, the Chernobyl virus hit on the 26th, though most of its damage was done overseas.

But ExploreZip seems to be fairly successful so far, having forced a number of large companies -- including Microsoft -- to shut down their corporate e-mail systems.

The outbreak underscores the need for computer users to keep their computers protected with the latest anti-virus protection software.

These programs are sold and updated regularly by subscription -- cheap insurance when you consider that the damage a computer virus (or in this case, worm) may inflict.

For more information, you can visit computer anti-virus companies, including Network Associates, www.nai.com; Symantec Corp., http://symantec.com; and Trend Micro, www.antivirus.com.

In addition to good antivirus software, the best way to avoid an e-mail virus is to know who is sending you the file and what you can expect it to contain. Never open unexplained e-mail attachments.

AUCTION OUT OF ACTION. The nation's top online auction Web site took some hits last week when the computer that serves up its Web pages crashed on Thursday evening.

Engineers for eBay.com worked through the night to rebuild its server system, forcing it to suspend auctions and extend the ongoing ones for 24 hours.

Not only did the company's image suffer, but their stock value took some hits too -- dropping by nearly 5 percent my midday Friday.

The nature of eBay's business means it runs around the clock, seven days a week, listing more than 2 million items that sell to the highest bidder.

Nearly 4 million people have registered to buy and sell on the site.

TOYS R ONLINE. Toys R Us CEO Robert Nakasone didn't mince words last week when he talked about the company's plans for taking sales online this year.

"We're going to go out in cyberspace and be the market leader," Nakasone said. "By the fourth quarter, we expect to be the No. 1 toy seller on the Internet."

Fast talk from a CEO whose company has had a minimal Web site -- until now.

Toys R Us is targeting the market that the successful E-Toys.com online retailer has carved out for itself.

The main draw that will attract toy shoppers, according to Nakasone, is convenience.

"If you order from eToys and you don't like something when it arrives in the mail, you have to pack it up and send it back," he said.

But Toys R Us will allow shoppers who purchase online to return goods at their retail outlets.

"There will be kiosks (for Internet returns) in all of our stores."

Their redesigned Web site is already online, and plans are to make it even more useful to consumers. For details, grab your credit card and visit www.toysrus.com.

FREE NET. Freebies have become a way of life for marketing in these United States.

Free cell phones with a signed contract. Free car wash with a tank fillup. Free this and free that.

An Irish telecommunications firm is hoping the word "free" will help it become a leader in electronic commerce in its country.

The company now offers Internet access and plans to snare 30 percent of its market in the first year alone.

Free Internet access is available in the U.S., most notably through NetZero.com.

Critics charge that like other products, "you get what you pay for," with companies offer free Net access.

And just from my own experience using NetZero, I'll have to agree.

My own experience with free Internet access is best termed "sporadic": Sporadic connections, sporadic throughput, sporadic connectivity.

The one part that wasn't sporadic?

The busy signals.

Go figure.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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