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Extension Technology and
Computer Services


University of Missouri-Columbia   Extension Technology and Computer Services—ETCS

  April 2000
Vol. 17, No. 2

A Technology Newsletter for Extension Specialists



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Extension, a Virus Spreader?
by John Myers

Here's a little story and see if you think it's fact or fiction. Farmer Joe comes to his county extension office to drop off some soil samples. There's a long line and he knows it will take a while. He sees a public access workstation and decides to check the agriculture bulletin board. He finds a very interesting article and decides to download it to a floppy he has. He puts the disk in, downloads the file, and then returns the disk to his pocket. He then drops off his soil samples and leaves. Later that day Mrs. Jones comes in to an extension homemakers meeting with her grandson Billy. Her grandson is bored so they let him surf the web on the public access workstation. Billy finds a neat game site and downloads a demo game to a floppy disk he just happens to have. The meeting's over and Mrs. Jones takes Billy home. Billy then puts the disk in his family's computer to play the demo game and has one heck of a time. Later that night, Dad comes home and needs to use the computer. He turns it on, but it won't work. After many hours, Dad finally figures out that they have a virus and they got it from their county extension office.

Sounds very possible. What has just happened was that Farmer Joe was the virus originator. When he put his disk in the public access workstation, he infected the machine, which then infected other disks that were used on that machine. These disks are then used in other machines which spread the viruses around. The problem is that Dad blames his county extension office for his troubles and extension gets a bad reputation. Everyone forgets that viruses spread in many different ways, not just by email. We assume that since this machine is not being used for email, that it won't get viruses. It is because of this point that we must make it a habit to update all machines, especially public access machines, to the latest anti-virus updates. To help form this good habit, ETCS is introducing a new section of Inner Circuits called Anti-Virus Corner (see article below).



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