Your Simon's Rock email account is scanned for viruses, so if you are using your Simon's Rock email, most infected attachments should be deleted before they get to you. However, no system is perfect and viruses can be spread in many ways, so you should still consider the following precautions.
The overwhelming majority of viruses are for Windows. If you are running Mac OS, Linux, or any other operating system, you are much less likely to get a virus. Additionally, if you are using Outlook Express, you are much more likely to get a virus than if you are not. Thus, one of the simplest ways to reduce the likelihood of getting a virus is not to use Outlook. The Office of Computer & Media Services will not support Outlook Express on any staff machines; we recommend Eudora, Netscape Mail, or the OS X Mail application instead.
Most viruses are spread through email, particularly through email attachments. While you can receive viruses in the text of an email message if it contains html, it is very unlikely. You can avoid the vast majority of viruses by never opening email attachments unless you are certain you know what they are. Attachments that end in .vbs or .exe are executable files that often (though not always) contain viruses. You should be especially cautious if you receive such files as attachments. When in doubt, either throw out the attachment without opening it (better safe than sorry) or run a virus scanner on the file or on your whole computer immediately after opening it.
One common form of virus is a Word macro virus. Macros are small programs that you can use write to automate some of the tasks you do repeatedly. They are very seldom actually used for legitimate purposes. Word macro viruses are viruses that take advantage of the fact that Word, in both Windows and Mac OS, will allow them to run certain commands on your computer without you knowing it. If you use Microsoft Word, you will want to make sure that you have macro virus protection enabled. Once virus protection is enabled, you will be warned before Word will open any files with macros. To turn on virus protection, open an existing file or blank document in Word. From the Tools menu, select Options... in Windows or Preferences... in MacOS, both of which are at the bottom of the list. Click on the General tab. Check the box that says Macro virus protection. Quit Microsoft Word and open it again. Check to make sure that Macro virus protection is still checked. (If it is not, you probably have a Macro virus and should scan your computer for viruses immediately.)
Because viruses are not only spread through email, you should also always be cautious when downloading files from Network Neighborhood or My Network Places, the web, and file sharing programs. If you have a shared folder on your computer that other users can write to, you can even get viruses without downloading anything yourself. Please check to make sure that you do not have any non-passworded writable shares on your computer. (If you are unsure how to do this, ask.)
You can reduce your risk of getting a virus by making sure that you have patched all known vulnerabilites. For Windows users, this includes running Windows update; for Mac users, this includes running Software Update. We recommend that this be done daily.
And finally, of course, we recommend that you have an antivirus program installed on your computer. The antivirus program should be set to download new virus definitions daily. Simon's Rock will provide antivirus software for all faculty, staff, and students.