We've got mail

May 16, 2002

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vol. 24, no. 2

Opening email attachments
While the article in the May 2 SFU News is useful and informative, I must take exception to the opening sentence - that sending mail attachments is completely unacceptable. The problem is not attachments - a near-indispensible feature of modern email - the problem is taking an operating system that does not differentiate between programs and data, or between trusted software and something it picked up off the street, and connecting it to the Internet. It's like a child in preschool drinking the bubble mixture because it's in a bottle.

The solution is not to take all the toys away, but to teach the child that the drinks are in the refrigerator. In computer terms, this means installing security updates. Going online with a store-bought Windows systems is not safe any more. The belief that you will be OK if you don't open mail from strangers and don't open obvious attachments is false - most viruses come from people that have your address, and recent ones have used a hidden Web page in the mail body. If you use email, you will get one. It will probably look like a reply from your best friend, or an urgent note from your boss.

Andrew Daviel
Computer security manager

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