Infection free

A new breed of virus may be creeping into your computer at this very moment, attaching itself to your e-mail address list and sending itself back out to your contacts with your name attached.

Worse, it could be picking an e-mail address from a document on your computer and sending itself back out using that address as its sender, making it virtually impossible to trace.

These viruses, part of the second generation of computer viruses, are becoming more difficult to control and can paralyze your network, says Todd Fox, president of Connecting Point, a North Canton-based IT consultancy founded in 1981.

While the first generation attacked individual computers, limiting the damage, the second generation’s emphasis is on spreading itself and infecting as many computers as possible.

Fox advises clients to protect their businesses by making sure there aren’t gaps in their computer systems, such as laptop users coming in without virus protection software or software that’s not consistent with what’s been installed in the company. He also suggests frequent, automatic updates to antivirus software.

“Klez” is typical of the viruses making the rounds. Like most written recently, it attaches itself to Microsoft Outlook contact lists. Fox says virus writers tend to write for Outlook because it’s most prevalent in the workplace.

Here’s how “Klez” works: Once it’s sent to you, it not only looks through your Outlook e-mail box for contacts so it can send a message out from you, it also searches documents on your hard drive for the format of an e-mail address. It then inserts that into the sender address, so it appears the e-mail came from that sender.

“It is very difficult to track the source, which takes it to a completely different level,” Fox says.

Here are some ways to stop a virus in its tracks:

* Delete mysterious attachments, even if they’re sent to you from a known source.

* If you use Outlook, don’t use advanced settings that allow your computer to automatically open Web pages implanted in an e-mail message.

* Make sure your antivirus software is automatically updated on your business’ server, not just on individual computers. A virus can spread through a network as easily as it can spread through e-mail. How to reach: Connecting Point, (330) 494-9694