Computer viruses can sneak past the best anti-virus protection


April 22, 2001




Even a good anti-virus program can't cover everything.

That's the real-world lesson I learned this week when my computer was rendered useless by a trojan horse called Win32.subseven.22.

I have been using a free anti-virus program called InoculateIT Personal Edition, and it has performed well. It has alerted me twice of viruses it has detected -- one of which was on an old floppy disk I had in my desk I was going to use.

The software has cleaned up the viruses without problems. It has been like a watchdog over any files I've downloaded or tried to run.

But even InoculateIT PE has its limits.

Late one Thursday night, I downloaded a file that had the SubSeven trojan horse and tried to open the file. The InoculateIT software did just what it was supposed to -- it alerted me to the fact the software was a trojan and correctly identified it.

Unfortunately, it couldn't stop it from installing itself on my computer.

I know the anti-virus software does a scan when the computer restarts, so I shut down the computer and restarted.

On startup, the anti-virus program identified the trojan horse program, but couldn't remove it.

The effect of the trojan horse was dramatic. I was unable to run 90 percent of the applications on my computer. I couldn't run the anti-virus software to try to remove the SubSeven trojan. I couldn't send or receive e-mail to ask for help from the software company. I couldn't use a Web browser to find a site for help.

My computer was dead in the water.

Fortunately, my wife and kids' computer was available, and I set about finding a cure for my PC.

It didn't take long to locate. A company called F-Secure had what I needed to eradicate SubSeven.

In addition to the many versions of their F-Secure anti-virus software, they still give away a program called F-PROT, which is a DOS program that remains one of the top virus killers I've ever used.

Since it is a DOS program, it's a little clunky to use. And F-Secure has a time limit on each version, so you have to go back on a regular basis to download the updated version, but you need to update your anti-virus software with updates regularly anyway.

F-PROT can't give you the always-running-in-the-background protection that InoculateIT and F-Secure can, but this makes the second or third time it has saved my PC from a nasty computer virus or bug.

InoculateIT PE tried to eliminate the virus, and may have done so had I updated my anti-virus files recently. You can bet that was the first thing I did once my PC was back online -- the second thing was to conduct a thorough anti-virus scan of my computer.

For information on F-Prot, or to find out more about F-Secure, visit

RADIO OFFLINE. The Golden Age of Radio seemed to return, particularly to AM radio stations when streaming audio allowed computer users to listen online anywhere in the world.

But a number of stations have ended their online broadcasts in the wake of higher royalties that will be required to be paid to performers in their commercials.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' contract specifies that union performers receive 300 percent of their normal fee if a radio commercial is streamed online.

The issue is simple. The greater the exposure a radio commercial gets, the more it is worth. Likewise, the more the performer should be paid.

A commercial spot broadcast over the air by a 1,000-watt radio station will have only a small fraction of the potential exposure it could have if streamed online. The difference in fees could be substantial.

Radio stations owned by Clear Channel and other companies stopped streaming their radio stations recently in the wake of paying higher fees.

A message at the union's Web site noted that the requirement to pay royalties for streamed commercials was in effect approved with the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998.

No royalty fee schedule was setup after the law was passed, though the union notes that the radio stations pulled their webcasts the week that the U.S. Copyright Office received testimony and arguments on the rates that will be set under this DMCA legislation.

The royalties will also be set for music that is webcast by radio stations. We undoubtedly will be hearing more on this, but probably without music or commercials streamed online.

CANCER PROGRAM NO HOAX. If you received an e-mail or read about plans to sign up computer owners who can ``donate'' their computer time to a cancer research program, you should know that the program is a legitimate one.

The project is sponsored by Intel and United Devices Inc., as well as the American Cancer Society, the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the University of Oxford.

In simple terms, the program uses your computer processing power during periods when the computer is turned on but not used.

The technology was developed by United Devices, and includes a special screensaver. Whenever the screensaver is showing on a participating PC, it becomes one part of a huge ``virtual computer.'' By combining the computer power from thousands (or millions) of PCs, United Devices can offer some heavy-hitting processing to companies that may use it for cancer research.

According to a United Devices press release, the computing power possible could be ten times more powerful than today's highest performing supercomputer.

United Devices developed the peer-to-peer application that links all the computers together. The first computations will be used for the National Foundation for Cancer Research involving leukemia and drug-optimization research.

The peer-to-peer distributed computing technology was first created and used in conjunction with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program. Its application is being developed for other purposes, and United Devices plans to make the sale of access to a ``virtual supercomputer'' a reality soon.

To participate or find out more information, visit

E-MAIL TAKES TIME. A survey by the Gartner research firm found that the average workers almost an hour each day handling work-related e-mail messages.

Nearly one-fourth those surveyed spend more than one hour on work-related e-mails.

Apparently, e-mail is replacing the water cooler as the avenue for gossip and company chat.

The survey of 330 business e-mail users also found that 34 percent of the messages workers received didn't contain any vital information the workers needed to better perform their jobs.

Workers should remember that most employers have the right to know the content of any e-mail sent or received on a computer at work -- and many companies archive all e-mails.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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