A New Look for Control Engineering Online; Advice on Viruses and Hoaxes

Control Engineering's web site at www.controleng.com has a new look. Users will find more information directly accessible from the home page. Getting around CE's page is now easier, with navigation links at the left of every screen and no more scrolling. Control Engineering Online also provides links to Manufacturing Marketplace's home page, product directory, search engine, other mag...

02/01/1998


Control Engineering's web site at www.controleng.com has a new look. Users will find more information directly accessible from the home page. Getting around CE 's page is now easier, with navigation links at the left of every screen and no more scrolling. Control Engineering Online also provides links to Manufacturing Marketplace's home page, product directory, search engine, other magazine sites, "Your Page" page customization, and online jobs database.

Good Times, Sandman, other hoaxes

As almost anyone who works with computers knows, viruses are a fact of life. Once they are in a computer's memory, they can at least annoy, and at worst, destroy data. Unfortunately, the Internet is a repository of potentially harmful files. Anyone downloading files from the Internet should certainly take precautions to avoid infection.

The Internet is also a medium good for something else: spreading virus hysteria. While many serious viruses are out there, fear of viruses has a way of feeding on itself. As an example, some may recall the media frenzy over Michelangelo in 1992. News re- ports warned of the supposed havoc the virus would cause. As viruses go, Michelangelo proved to be somewhat tame and was not as widespread as predicted. While that was an isolated incident, web surfers use the Internet every day to warn others about viruses transmitted in e-mail and Usenet newsgroups. The problem is, some of the viruses people send warnings about don't even exist.

Some viruses are just hoaxes. Hoaxes could well be started by people who want the same strange satisfaction they would get from creating a virus but without all the effort of actually programming one. Warnings about these non- existent viruses are passed on by well-meaning but misinformed users. Eventually, the warnings are passed around long enough to become accepted as urban legends like snipe hunting and Elvis sightings.

A more infamous hoax is one called Good Times, in circulation since 1994 and going strong. Messages about this "virus" warn not to open e-mail or Usenet messages titled Good Times because they supposedly erase hard drives. Warnings of a newer hoax, called Sandman, advise Internet users not to heed messages from someone called Sandman. Sandman's messages tell users to check out a particular web page and provide a URL. The warnings state that doing so 'hacks' a user's C: drive. (By the way, Sandman's URL exists, but does not open a web page.)

Computer viruses can be serious and hoaxes should not cause anyone to drop their guard. Every computer user should have a plan to prevent infections by viruses. The best way to keep from falling for a hoax is to know how to identify them.

A helpful web site for learning more about common hoaxes is the National Computer Security Association (NCSA) Virus Labs Alerts and Hoaxes page at www.ncsa.com/virus/alerthoax.html. Alerts about long-running and new hoaxes give background and example messages from the web. To find out about actual viruses, NCSA also provides a page with links to the virus databases of several software companies at www.ncsa.com/ virus/virusdescriptions.html.

To learn more about how viruses work, how to prevent them, and how to identify a hoax, Computer Knowledge, a commercial computer site devoted to assisting computer users, provides a computer-based tutorial that can be downloaded from its web site at http:www.cknow.com/ck_prod.html.

Matt Bellm mbellm@cahners.com





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