An Easy Way to Deal with Email Viruses and Worms

If you feel intimidated when someone tries to teach you something new on the computer, this article is for you!

In the course of my career, I've worked with many people who I knew were smart but were convinced that they couldn't learn how to do new things on a computer. At some point, they'd convinced themselves that they weren't one of those "computer people". I would try to teach them how to do something that would make their work a lot easier or faster, and I could see them shut down immediately. "I can't do stuff like that. I'm just not good at it."

In a few cases, my colleagues were simply amazed that I knew how to do things like upload photos to the Internet or how to start a new folder in Windows. Some would tell me that I must have some special gift for technology. I would just laugh and tell them that nothing could be further from the truth! I have a degree in psychology. I'm not a math and science type of person, and if it weren't for the patience of my tech-minded husband and friends, I never would have learned how to do these things.

The fact is, computers are such a part of our lives, that you can't afford to think of yourself as not a "computer person". The reason I think that a lot of people are intimidated when learning about computers is that so much of the instructions and directions are full of jargon and assume that people have as much technological knowledge as people who work with computers for a living.

I'm convinced that if I can do it, anyone else can do it too. All it takes is an open mind, confidence, and someone to explain things to you step by step in plain English.

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Aside from using anti-virus software, there is another way to keep some email viruses or worms from driving you crazy and clogging up your inbox. While the "Sobig" virus seems to have died down, there are sure to be some like it in the future. If you would like to prevent these bogus Emails from reaching your inbox, you can set up rules in Outlook or Outlook Express to send them directly to the delete folder.

Although the Sobig virus seems to be under control, it might be good practice to do this now. That way when the next big virus comes around, you'll be able to filter it out right away. It might seem like its difficult, but I know that anyone can do this. If you're smart enough to do your taxes and balance your checkbook, you can do this, trust me.

If you're using Outlook Express, go to Tools, then select "message rules" and then "mail". A box will pop up with buttons on the right side of the window. Hit the "new" button. Another box pops up with three windows. In the first box, click the box next to "Where the subject line contains specific words".

In the second box, click "delete it". Now in the third box it should say, "Apply this rule after the message arrives/Where the Subject line contains specific words/Delete it." Click on the words "contains specific words".

This is where you tell the program what words to look for in the subject line. It's very important to remember that this is case sensitive, meaning that if you put "abc" in, it will only delete emails with "abc" in the subject, and not "ABC" or "Abc". For the Sobig virus, there were seven subject lines that were commonly used. If you would like to read more about this, go to http://www.webpro.com/iq/SobigF.asp The subject lines are:

  • That movie

  • Wicked screensaver

  • Your application

  • Approved

  • My details

  • Details

  • Your details

  • Thank you

It's a good idea to copy and paste the phrases above to make sure the capitalization is exactly the same. (copy=control C, Paste=Control V)

Enter the first phrase into the box and then click on the "add" button to the right. That phrase will appear in the box below. You can add as many phrases as you'd like, clicking "add" after each one. When you're done, hit "ok" Then hit "ok" again.

At this point, we are back to one box open with buttons on the right. Be sure to click the "apply now" button if you want the rule to apply to the email that is already in your inbox as well as any future emails.

When you are done with that, click the "ok" button and you're finished.

If you use Outlook, the process is a little different.

First go to Tools, and then choose "Rules Wizard". Click on the "new" button on the right. It should say at the top of a new box "What type of rule would you like to create?" There will be a list of types of rules: you want to choose "Check messages when they arrive", which is at the top so it should already be highlighted. Simply click on "next".

The next box asks you "which conditions do you want to check?" with a list of choices, each with an empty box next to it. Scroll down until you get to "with specific words in the subject", and click the box in front of it.

Once you click it, you'll notice that "with specific words in the subject" appears in the box below. Click on the "specific words" in the lower box here to specify which words the program should look for.

This is where you tell the program what words to look for in the subject line. It's very important to remember that this is case sensitive, meaning that if you put "abc" in, it will only delete emails with "abc" in the subject, and not "ABC" or "Abc".

For the Sobig virus, there were seven subject lines that were commonly used. If you would like to read more about this, go to http://www.webpro.com/iq/SobigF.asp The subject lines are:

  • That movie

  • Wicked screensaver

  • Your application

  • Approved

  • My details

  • Details

  • Your details

  • Thank you

A new box will pop up that says, "search text" at the top. Enter one of the phrases you want to filter out and click "add". You may enter as many phrases as you'd like, clicking "add" after each one. When you're finished, click "Ok". You'll be taken back to the previous box. Click "next" at the bottom.

At this point, you have two choices. You can either specify that these emails go into your delete file to be reviewed later, or you can specify that they be permanently deleted from Outlook so that you never see them. At this point, either click in the box next to "delete it", which simply moves it automatically to the delete folder, or click "permanently delete", which means that you will never see the email at all and won't be able to get it back.

Click "next" again and you're now at the exceptions box. I can see no reason to use the exceptions when dealing with the Sobig viruses and others like it. There might be a temptation to make an exception for people who are in your address book or close friends. But remember, a virus will take over someone else's address book and send you emails without the person ever knowing. Anyone in your address book could send you an infected email without knowing it. I recommend that you hit "next" without selecting any exceptions at this point.

In the next box, the program would like to know the name of the rule you've just created. You might want to call it "viruses #1" or something similar. Click finish after naming your rule. At this point you have another choice: you can apply the rule you just created to the mail already in your inbox, or you can choose to have it apply only to the incoming mail from now on. Choose either "run now" or "ok".

You're finished. That wasn't SO hard, was it? You might even want to set up some more rules to help you organize your inbox or to filter out spam or unwanted email.

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Some more information about attachments and viruses/worms:

Email viruses and worms almost always are transmitted through attachments. Remember after the Anthrax scare in the US a couple of years ago when everyone was very picky about what mail they accepted and opened? Anything that looked suspicious or didn't have a return address wasn't opened.

Think about attachments in the same way. If you get email from someone you don't know, don't open the attachment! If the email doesn't say anything personal to you or use your real name, don't open the attachment. You can always send an email back to that person asking them about who they are or what the attachment is for if you're in doubt.

What you need to know about the difference between spam and viruses:

Recently online I've seen a couple of people referring to the emails they get from viruses as spam. If you want to impress your friends and coworkers with your technological savvy, you need to know that spam is unwanted and unsolicited email you get for a commercial purpose. The intention of the email is commercial. Someone wants you to buy something, be a part of their program or visit their website.

Email you get because of viruses is technically not spam. Although it is unwanted, its intention is not to advertise or market anything, it's simply a nuisance created by someone with too much time on his or her hands!

Also keep in mind that viruses commonly get into people's address books and send out automatic emails to everyone on the list. Your friends and relatives are not sending you infected email on purpose.

About The Author

Heather Dickson is the owner of Virtuassist.net, a virtual assistant practice. She is a member of the International Virtual Assistants Association and a Certified Real Estate Support Specialist. Heather lives in Missouri with her husband and four cats.

[email protected]

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