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REVIEW: "Computer Viruses for Dummies", Peter Gregory

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKCMVRDM.RVW 20041010 Computer Viruses for Dummies , Peter Gregory, 2004, 0-7645-7418-3, U$14.99/C$21.99/UK#9.99 %A Peter Gregory
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 16, 2004
      BKCMVRDM.RVW 20041010

      "Computer Viruses for Dummies", Peter Gregory, 2004, 0-7645-7418-3,
      %A Peter Gregory peter.gregory@...
      %C 5353 Dundas Street West, 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON M9B 6H8
      %D 2004
      %G 0-7645-7418-3
      %I John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
      %O U$14.99/C$21.99/UK#9.99 416-236-4433 fax: 416-236-4448
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0764574183/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0764574183/robsladesin03-20
      %P 274 p.
      %T "Computer Viruses for Dummies"

      This book isn't really about computer viruses. The introduction
      contains an awkwardly worded paragraph in Gregory refuses to define
      computer viruses, but makes it clear that he intends, in common with
      Humpty-Dumpty, to use the term "virus" in whichever way he chooses.
      Mostly he chooses to use it to mean "lots of things that can be
      annoying to your computing, including malware, spam, and other
      circumstances." To the non-specialist this might seem to be an
      advantage. After all, who cares what you call the problem as long as
      you're protected from it? Unfortunately, the different types of Bad
      Things out there work in different ways. So why tell the reader to
      use a firewall, and avoid getting their addresses on spam lists, when
      neither technology has anything to do with protecting you against

      Part one is supposed to allow you to evaluate your virus situation.
      Chapter one, which purports to give you the information necessary to
      understand virus risks, contains a lot of generally irrelevant
      material, such as the various versions of Windows. (It is ironic that
      the most meager entry given is that for Windows XP, since XP was
      actually an important increase in virus risk. The internal structure
      of the operating system makes it harder to clean and protect--DCOM is
      more difficult to shut off, and System Restore makes it harder to get
      rid of risky utilities--and the increased wealth of hiding places
      makes disinfection much more problematic.) The symptoms listed in
      chapter two are not reliable indicators of the presence; or absence;
      of a virus. The section that repeats much of the content of chapter
      one is peculiar. The book is intended for, err ..., average to novice
      computer users, so having a chapter telling you how to find out if
      your computer actually has antiviral software already installed is
      possibly a good thing. But chapter three spends an awful lot of time
      telling you things about icons, and not as much time on how you might
      determine the version or signature update status.

      Part two is concerned with actually protecting yourself. Chapter four
      suggests a reasonable process for installing new antiviral software
      once you have it. First, however, there is some questionable advice
      in regard to choosing said software. "Reputable" is not an easily
      quantifiable term: the ordinary user is going to have a hard time
      distinguishing between "is highly functional" and "costs a lot and has
      the biggest, brightest boxes and ads." In addition, Gregory strongly
      promotes the idea of bundled packages, without noting that such
      applications seldom have the "best of breed" in all categories, or
      that a failure in one component can often turn off the whole suite.
      Again, since this book is aimed at the typical user, chapter five's
      review of configuration options is not altogether useful: it does not
      always point out the dangers of certain actions. Chapter six, on
      scanning your computer and email, has very little helpful material.
      Dealing with infections, in chapter seven, is somewhat better. The
      content regarding interpretation of warning messages is worthwhile.
      But the terse accounts of modifying the Registry and restoring or re-
      installing files may lead readers into difficulty.

      Part three deals with maintenance of protection. Chapter eight,
      regarding updating of signatures, does not seem to have much value,
      and nine, on patching, really only has a couple of useful pages, and
      those only for Windows and Office. Firewalls and anti-spyware
      programs are important, but chapter ten fails to note how much you
      need to know about network traffic in order to effectively use a
      firewall, and that anti-spyware scanners don't detect viruses and vice
      versa. Some reasonable guidance on protecting your PDA (Personal
      Digital Assistant) is given in chapter eleven. Chapter twelve
      suggests making backups of your data, and has a few other points that
      might make you a bit safer. (I'd propose that telling people not to
      open attachments and avoid P2P/file sharing systems would result in
      better safety.)

      Part four is supposed to tell us more about what viruses are. Chapter
      thirteen is a not-terribly-reliable history. (BRAIN was not the
      first, Concept was not a polymorph [and came later, anyway], and
      during the heyday of BBSes the dominant viruses were boot sector
      infectors--which couldn't be spread by BBSes. Also, it is highly
      ironic that Gregory seems to imply that the Norton product was the
      first antivirus--since Peter Norton spent over year telling people
      that viruses were a myth and computer users should not foolishly give
      their money to those antivirus-product-selling scammers.) (I agree
      with Gregory on the virus writers, though.) Other types of malware
      and scams are briefly discussed in chapter fourteen. Chapter fifteen
      has a little (and old) information on virus operations, and some other
      miscellaneous stuff.

      Part five is the usual "Part of Tens," this time giving us nine myths
      and an actual situation (there are *way* more than ten myths), and
      minimal information about ten antivirals.

      This book is addressed to people who aren't interested in viruses, and
      wouldn't want to read a book about viruses. (Which makes for an
      interesting marketing challenge.) It is difficult to say that nobody
      would ever benefit from reading this text. But it is much harder to
      envisage a situation in which this circumscribed data would save the
      day, and really easy to imagine situations in which the little
      information in this tome could be a very dangerous thing.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKCMVRDM.RVW 20041010

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
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      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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