Windows viruses are a pain

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Technology
August 21st, 2003 • 7:27 pm

As Mac users, we might be watching the virus/worm situation unfold for Windows users from the sidelines, but that doesn’t mean that we are not affected.

I have 18 different email accounts to manage, and for a variety of reasons my email addresses are in many people’s address books / contact lists, including those of many Windows users.

This means that, whenever a new virus hits, I get tons of infected emails from Windows users, and I also get a fair amount of “returned mail” from servers who believe that I have sent infected emails to them, because many of the most recent viruses are able to use people’s address book entries not only as recipients but also as (apparent) senders of the email messages that they propagate through the Internet.

The most annoying part for me, however, is that all of these viruses propagate as attachments to email messages, and these attachments are typically 100 KB in size. This means that each time I receive an infected email or a returned email from a server, it comes with a 100 KB attachment. And when you start getting dozens of such emails per day, as I have been in the past couple of days because of a new wave of Windows viruses, it adds up. If I had a high-speed Internet connection, it probably wouldn’t bother me much, but on a dial-up connection, 10 or 20 times 100 KB is 1 or 2 megabytes. It’s still not a huge amount of bandwidth, but it’s definitely something that interferes with my work and my use of the Internet, because it slows down the downloading process significantly when I CHECK my mail or try to view a web site online.

What worries me even more is what’s going to happen when these attachments start getting bigger. How long will it take before one of those people who design viruses realizes that they can’t hurt networks even more by making these infected attachments that are sent automatically bigger? It’s probably not hard to find files on people’s hard drives that are 1 MB in size or more. Multiply 10 or 20 times 1 MB, and you have a much more serious problem for people on a dialup connection like me.

These viruses cannot infect my Mac, but they are still a royal pain. How many US Air Force officials and major airline breakdowns is it going to take to finally get Microsoft to become serious about fixing the vulnerabilities of Windows PCs?

2 Responses to “Windows viruses are a pain”

  1. Michael Williams says:

    A bigger attachment will not necessarily mean a virus is more damaging. The harder it is for people to get the virus (and as you say, a bigger file is harder to get for you and other dialup users) the less likely it will propogate successfully. A virus that is carried a 20MB attachment simply isn’t going to get very far.

    On a related note, why don’t you have your mail client not download the attachment automatically?

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    True at this point that bigger files are less likely to propagate successfully. Hadn’t thought of that :). I guess the day they become as likely to propagate as smaller files is the day I too will finally have access to broadband :).

    The reason I let Mail download attachments automatically is that having to do things manually would just be too tedious and time-consuming. If I actually want to download the attachment, I have to do it manually. If I want to erase it on the server without downloading it, I have to quit my email client (which doesn’t let me do that), launch a tool that lets me do that, log in with that tool, wait until it loads the list of all messages still on the server, select the one I want to delete, etc.

    All this might change if and when I decide to move from Mail to Mailsmith, which is a possibility again now that BB has added the features that were a glaring omission in 2.0. But I’ll have to see whether Mailsmith provides me with greater flexibility when it comes to handling attachments on the server.

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