Ancient Ways Of Computer Security

I was doing some research for a project the other day and stumbled on an old article on how to avoid viruses.  It’s amazing how far technology has come, and I found it amusing to read this older article.

When possible, try new software on a floppy drive machine that has no hard disk or has its hard disk turned off. The worst that can happen, then, is that the program destroys your floppy diskette during your evaluation, unless the virus is very clever.

Minimize contact with possible carriers of a virus. Bulletin boards carrying games are more likely virus sources than those not carrying them, as there is a general suspicion that young, game-interested programmers are the cause of most worms and viruses. Shareware purchased from the author probably is safer than the same software from a bulletin board or friend.

Write-protect your program files. MS-DOS stores files with several different attributes that most users normally ignore. One of these attributes determines whether this file may be changed or deleted or not. You can use the Norton utility FA to change all those attributes in your program files so that a worm or virus has more trouble altering such files.

For FA, the command syntax is this: FA *.Exe /R+ and FA *.Com /R+

Similar utilities are provided with other DOS utility packages.

Keep master copies of all of your programs on floppies. When a virus is suspected, use a file comparison utility to determine if the file on your hard disk differs in any way from the original on your floppy. If the files do differ, you may have spotted the trouble. Copy the suspect file to a diskette for later analysis, erase the suspect file from your hard disk, and copy from your master to the hard disk.

Use a program that can determine if a virus has modified any of your other software.

Antidote runs when you boot the system and examines files for alteration. Any files that have been changed since your last boot, either by accident or malice, will be identified so you may delete and replace them from your backups, if needed. If files such as have been altered, chances are the damage occurred since your last boot, and you may be able to identify the suspect.

When a virus or worm begins its campaign of terror, it may take a very clever, computer-literate detective to determine what is going on, what caused it and how to stop it.

If you are not as clever or computer-literate as you would like, find someone to assist before proceeding, as a good virus may destroy the clues that would track it down.

Back up hard disks frequently. Maintain two or three sets of backups. If a virus is detected, the hard disk can be reformatted and files restored from the last backup. If the virus still is detected, the process can be repeated with the previous backup.

Stang, David J. “Security habits build healthy software.” Government Computer News 27 May 1988: 53+.