Viruses - Frequently Asked Questions

Is my computer infected if I get the message but don't open any attachments?

No, just receiving a message should not infect your computer. You must click on a link or OPEN an attachment on the message to risk becoming infected. Be sure your e-mail program is not set to automatically open any attachments and your anti-virus program is up to date.

What should I do when I receive a potentially virus infected message?

Right now, we strongly recommend using the message headers to identify the infected machine to let the sender know they are inadvertently distributing infected messages to others. Determining the true sender is tricky but necessary to help prevent this particular virus from spreading. Just forwarding the message without the headers will not help. The way you find headers depends on your email program. For instructions, see:

How do I report an infected email message?

If you do not wish to report the infected computer, we recommend just deleting the messages.

What is Cal Poly doing to prevent viruses from spreading?

  1. Information Technology Services (ITS) employs an email antivirus gateway to greatly reduce many of the known viruses from ever reaching or leaving the campus. The gateway deletes infected attachments and notifies the recipient about the virus. When a large outbreak occurs, the gateway may be used to block and/or delete infected messages. The gateway also filters and tags incoming messages suspected of being SPAM.
    • NOTE: ITS can never block or prevent all virus attacks as new ones are constantly being invented, and there is a delay between a new virus being identified and the antivirus software definitions being updated to identify and disinfect them.
  2. Provide current anti-malware software to all Cal Poly users at no charge for use at home and work, and as much installation assistance as possible.
  3. Employ a perimeter "firewall" between the Cal Poly network and the Interent. The firewall limits outside access to on-campus computers and services except when explicitly approved. Visit the campus firewall website for more information.
  4. Employ automated software to ensure that the operating system and anti-malware software are up-to-date on computers in the residence halls prior to granting network access.
  5. Remove potentially infected computers from the network as soon as possible to prevent other computers from being infected or attacked.
  6. Provide assistance to clean-up infections when they occur on university owned computers and servers.
  7. Educate Cal Poly users on how to avoid malware and what to do if they are infected. Notify LAN Coordinators of the latest threats. Simply put, answers to specific questions depend on many factors. Find, read, and save online instructions just in case you need them.

What can I do to defend myself against viruses in general?

Clearly, personal alertness, action and defensive protection is an essential and prudent course of action in preventing infection.

  1. Make sure your antivirus software and virus definitions are current on both your home and office computer. Set them to regularly download update files to decrease your risk of infection. Use automatic updates to keep your operating system and other software current. Review and configure security settings on your computer, e.g., firewall, and wireless home network if applicable. Review the links on the Virus and Spyware section of the security website for more information.
  2. If you suspect infection on your machine, PLEASE DISCONNECT YOUR COMPUTER FROM THE NETWORK. You may be infecting others. Shut down the workstation only if the specific virus advisories tell you to do so. Refer to the following page for specific advice on what to do: Virus Reporting and Response Procedures.
  3. Make good backups. If you have access, save your files to a networked directory where regular backups are guaranteed. If you don't have network access, use an external hard drive or other removable storage media to periodically back up your files.
  4. If you get e-mail with an attachment from someone you know, don't assume it's harmless! Many viruses spread by automatically sending themselves to the addresses found in the victim's email address book, and often include a subject or text that looks like a genuine message, or they disguise the real sender.
  5. Unless you can tell for sure that it's NOT a virus, call or e-mail the person and ask if they meant to send you an attachment. If they say yes AND they can explain what it is, then it should be safe to open it. If not, try to identify and report the infection to the appropriate Internet Service Provider as soon as possible as noted above, and then delete the message.
  6. In general, you should delete suspicious e-mails without opening them or responding, especially if you receive an attachment from someone you don't know.

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