The responsibility of owning a computer today includes owning an antivirus program and keeping it up to date. If you haven’t affirmatively done something to update your virus definitions in the last two weeks, then you’re at risk, and you’re putting everyone in your address book at risk. It’s not difficult – the antivirus programs make it very easy to remember to stay up to date. It’s not glamorous or fun, either, but it’s an unavoidable part of owning a computer in 2001. You just have to do it. Update your antivirus program every two weeks – no excuses.

But let me stress something else that deserves repeating. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook 98 or 2000 for e-mail, there is an easy way to protect yourself against 99% of the viruses traveling by e-mail, regardless of your antivirus program.

In Outlook, click on Help / About Outlook and look at the version of the program. If there’s no reference to a Service Release, you have to install Service Release 1a from the Microsoft Office update web site.

Then go to this page and install the Outlook E-Mail Security Update, which blocks attachments whose names end in .EXE, .BAT, .PIF, .VBS, .SCR, and a number of others. Most e-mail viruses will be prevented from reaching your computer, before the antivirus program has a chance to react.

There’s more information about the security update here, as well as additional links to download the security update.

Note that this security is built into Office XP and Office 2000 Service Release 2. And it doesn’t apply if you’re using Outlook Express.

If you have any trouble installing the service releases – they’re big downloads – call me and have me do it. And for goodness’ sake, don’t click on e-mail attachments that you’re not expecting!

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