Monday, March 9, 1998

Michelangelo may be dead, but viruses remain real threat to computer data

--Tips to protect your valuable information--

It’s been six years since Michelangelo first frightened computer users around the world. According to legend, Michelangelo – not the famed artist – but rather the most famous virus of the same name, allegedly destroys data with one sadistic brushstroke when the clock reads March 6. But even though Michelangelo didn’t become the worldwide disaster many predicted, that doesn’t mean users can breathe any easier.

Michelangelo is still only one of 10,000 reported viruses that cost businesses more than $1 billion per year. Viruses, self-replicating programs that invade a host file on your system, can cause any number of strange side effects, from simple messages announcing their presence and keyboard chirps to destroying much of your valuable data and locking your computer. So, how do you protect your computer and your invaluable data from being infiltrated and destroyed?

Ontrack advises computer users to safeguard their valuable data by checking computers regularly. Stuart Hanley, vice president of worldwide operations for Ontrack, a company specializing in protecting and recovering data, encourages computer users to be proactive in the fight against viruses.

"While Michelangelo may be dead, a new generation of more destructive viruses continue to pose a very real threat to users," says Hanley. "We’re seeing new, stronger viruses every day; it’s important to remember that while many people assume viruses are a thing of the past because of the existing technologies to fight them, data is too valuable to risk losing on an assumption," Hanley says.

Hanley offers the following tips for protecting your valuable data, fighting viruses and avoiding the panic and frustration often evoked when faced with computer problems.

· BEWARE OF FILES BEARING VIRUSES: Whether you know you have a virus or not, Hanley cautions users about where they get their data. "Many users don’t take the precautions necessary to protect their data. They freely download applications or files from the Internet or put unchecked diskettes into their computers." Hanley warns users to be cautious of all programs and files they put into their computers, whether from a reputable source or not. "You can never be sure if software is virus-free; don’t be fooled by brand names. It only takes a few moments to safeguard your data by running a virus scanner." · NEVER PIRATE SOFTWARE: Legal considerations aside, copying files is a great way to spread viruses and when the duplication is done without quality control, the chance of infection is multiplied. The same goes for your other software. "Make sure to check all incoming software, regardless of its name," Hanley advises.

· GUARD AGAINST INFECTION WITH ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE: Hanley recommends using a reputable anti-virus product to keep your computer running in tip-top shape. "Running an anti-virus program will tell you if your system has an unexpected visitor and, if used at the right time, will be able to destroy the virus and restore your computer to working order." After running a virus scanner, you'll know if anti-virus software, such as VetÔAnti-Virus, is needed to eradicate the virus and/or if you need to contact a qualified data recovery engineer. Vet Anti-Virus is now available from Ontrack.

· GET RELIABLE BACK-UP: The safety of your data is only as reliable as its back-up. Thus, Hanley suggests investing in, using, and testing the restore capabilities of backups regularly. "Though not every problem can be solved by backing up a system, it is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from losing precious data."

Hanley cautions that even the best anti-virus programs can’t help you if a virus has already worked its black magic. "You may find it’s too late and the virus was able to destroy or damage some of your data. In these situations, the best thing you can do is contact a qualified data recovery expert."

· BEGIN A REGULAR COMPUTER CHECK-UP PROGRAM: Hanley says beginning a data protection regimen immediately is the only way to adequately safeguard against viruses and other sources of data loss. "The best thing you can do for peace of mind is to use Ontrack Data Advisor™ software regularly. Data Advisor diagnostic software quickly assesses the health of your system, tells you what’s wrong and offers real-time solutions. And, because it’s self-booting, it will even work when your computer doesn’t." Hanley reminds users that these tips are only part of the solution to total computer health and not to rely solely on them. "Not every problem users encounter is foreseeable or immediately fixable, but if they need additional assistance, professional Ontrack data recovery experts are there to help." Ontrack (Nasdaq: ONDI), the world leader in data recovery, specializes in software and services that help computer users protect their valuable data. Ontrack uses hundreds of proprietary tools and techniques to recover lost or corrupted data from any storage device and operating system. Ontrack can be reached through its World Wide Web site at or by calling 800-872-2599. In addition to its Minneapolis headquarters, Ontrack operates data recovery labs in Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, London and Stuttgart.###