South Orangetown Central School District

Internet Safety

Computer Viruses

Welcome to the SOCSD virus resource page.  Use the links below to find out how to protect yourself and the district from the threat of computer viruses.  In general, the district has had very few problems with actual virus attacks.  The two most common problems we have had are “ghost emails” that are returned due to a virus attached, but never really sent, and “hoax letters” claiming someone sent a virus to us.  Both are common occurrences on the web.  They are only an annoyance and not a threat.

What is a Virus?

A virus is simply a computer program designed to hurt rather than to help you.  Most computer programs are meant to help you in some way.  Although they may frustrate us from time to time, most programs do just that.  A virus, however is a program designed to hurt you or your computer.

How a Virus Works

Virus programs have two main parts.  The first part is designed to spread the virus from computer to computer.  It may look into your email address book and send itself to everyone there through email, or it may attach itself to programs or files that people commonly share.  In either case, once it finds its way to new computer, it launches the second of its two main parts, called the payload.  The payload is the part of the program designed to do something to the host computer.   They may erase your hard drive or cause other things to go wrong with your machine.

Hoaxes

There are many hoaxes designed to scare people into thinking they have a virus on their computer.  You can check any warnings you have with one of the virus encyclopedias in the links section of this site.

Interesting Facts About Virus Programs

Often viruses can start off as jokes.  In one instance, a virus displays and asks you to type the words “Happy Birthday Joshi” once a year on January 5th;  presumably the creator’s birthday.  Even joke virus programs can cause major problems once computer operating systems and environments change over time.  Just like your old software, they may not run correctly on your new system.

Virus programs tend to be small.  Most programs, like a word processor, have millions of lines of computer code.  Most of this is usually taken up with making the menus and buttons work, catching any mistakes you make, and generally making the program look good and be easy to use.  Since virus programs do not usually have to show anything on the screen or have any menus or buttons for you to use, most virus programs have far fewer lines of computer code than other software.  In fact, the United States Military once experienced a catastrophic failure of its systems due to a virus with less than 100 lines of code.

Vocabulary

There are several different types of viruses now in circulation.  Each are slightly different and go by different names

Trojan Horse:  A malicious program that masquerades as something good.  For example, one program, aol4free, sounds promising, but tries to delete your entire hard drive as soon as you open it.

Worm:  Simply a virus that sends copies of itself directly through  network connections rather than by infecting, and then traveling aboard other computer files.

Macro Virus:  A virus that is written within a program such as Microsoft Word, which has a small programming (macro) language you can use to expand Word’s capabilities.

Stay Protected.  Keep the School Protected.  Here’s How:

At School:  We keep the virus protections on all computers on our systems up-to-date.  In general at school, you only need to worry about the email you receive.  Please see the section below for more information

IMPORTANT:  If your virus software at school displays an alert saying that a machine is infected, please shut down the machine and contact your building facilitator right away.

At Home:  You are responsible for virus protection on your home computer.  Even if you use our email system to communicate.

  • KEEP YOUR VIRUS PROTECTION UP TO DATE.  Make sure you update your software and the virus definitions regularly.  This is the most important step you can take to keep your computer safe.  You must check with your own virus software to find out how to do this.
  • Run scans on the entire computer about once a month.  Again, You must check with your own virus software to find out exactly how to do this.
  • Back up your critical data regularly.  If you do get a virus, this can save you hours of frustration!  To do this, save copies of any critical data on your computer to disks, CD’s or another form of storage.

On Email:

Attachments:  If you get an email with an attachment you do not recognize or expect, please do not open the attachment.  Many viruses spread this way.  If in doubt, it is usually safe to read the email and decide whether to open the attachment afterward.  If you decide the email may not be safe, please delete it right away.  For more information, please read the next entry. If you have already opened a strange attachment, don’t panic.  Our virus software should take care of any problems.  If you are at home, run a scan of your computer with your own virus software (refer to your software to find out how).

Wait, I never sent that:  Many viruses send themselves around the internet using a technique called spoofing:  They look into the address book of an infected computer.  The virus chooses one person to send to and creates and email with another address from the book as the sender.  These typically have suggestive subject lines as well.  Often the receiver will send something back to the unsuspecting “sender” chastising them for creating such odd or infected email and causing everyone to run in a panic to update virus definitions.  Meanwhile, the actual infected computer continues creating more email and causing more havoc and no one is the wiser.  Here is what to do:

  • If you get an email like this: delete it right away.  If you have already opened it, refer to the attachments section above for steps, then delete it.
  • If you receive notification that you sent email with an infected file, don’t panic.  You are probably being “spoofed”.  This most likely came from outside the district, not from you.  You should start by checking your home computer just to be safe.  In general, however, these are just annoyances.  You only need to be truly concerned if you actually know you sent the email that was returned.  In that case, please let us know immediately.  Unfortunately, there is little we can do about these annoying email.  The computer sending the email is the one with the virus, and it is probably outside of our system, so we cannot stop these email from coming.  You might want to send an email to those who communicate with you regularly, encouraging them to check their system for viruses.  Someone with your name in their address book has a virus.  The virus that typically causes this is currently one of the most rampant on the internet.

Someone says they sent me a virus, what do I do?    While the threat of viruses is very real, there are an often equal amount of Hoaxes that float around the virtual community.  The most common come in the form of an email warning the recipient that the sender regrettably sent them a virus the previous week.  One such example encourages the recipient go to the Windows directory and delete a particular file.  When you get there, sure enough, the file is there.  It is a part of the Windows operating system.  Most people delete this little, but needed, file and then send the email to everyone they know.  This particular hoax has floated around the virtual world like a chain letter and shows up in the district at least once a month.  Here is what to do if you get one:

  • If you have a real threat or are in doubt, please inform your building facilitator away.

Contact

Technology
160 Van Wyck Road
Blauvelt, NY 10913
(845) 680-1010
Fax: (845) 680-1986

George Brady
Director of Technology

Karen Hogdahl
Secretary to the Director of Technology