The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletters. 


May 2000

Wildfire

What an exciting event the recent Loveletter virus created.  Get an email “Love Letter” and then shut down your PC and try to work. Took me a few minutes to remember how to look up a phone number without the computer. 

This virus was amazing for one very special reason. It clearly demonstrated how interconnected our computerized society has become. In this case, the odds are actually very good that you or one of your friends got a message with the virus. It spread faster than an Eastern Washington brush fire in August! 

But how can that happen so fast? Here’s one possible explanation. 

Sociologists have a theory that says that almost everyone in the United States can be connected (know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, etc.) with only 6 degrees of separation. That is, if we picked a name at random in the Arkansas phonebook, we would only have to go through 6 degrees of friends to find a common set of links [my friend (1), knows a friend (2), who knows a friend (3), who knows a friend (4), who knows a friend (5), who knows the guy in Arkansas (6)] 

Here is another way to think about it. Send a letter to all of the people you know. [this is the 1st degree].  Ask each of them to forward the letter to all of the people they know [this is the second degree].  Ask all of them to forward the letter, and so on.  According to the theory, by the time you get to the 6th-degree, the randomly selected person in Arkansas would have gotten the letter from someone he knows. 

Strange, but true. In this way, if everyone had an email address, you could send an email message to all of your friends and reach almost everyone in the United States in only 6 steps.  If people share the same special interest or association (all members of the military), the link would be much shorter.

 Another way to test this is to try and find someone who has shaken hands with a United States President.  It’s quite likely that you either know someone or one of the people you know, knows someone who has. 

There was a pretty strange Donald Sutherlan movie called Six Degrees of Separation that touched on this theory. You can also read an interesting article about the origins of this theory at http://backissues.worldlink.co.uk/articles/250100180310/22.htm …… 

Now that you know how closely we are connected, it is easy to see how a virus can spread everywhere in a very short period of time. The more people who connect to the internet, the faster these types of problems will spread. In this case the virus automatically sent itself to people on your email list. This only has to happen 6 times before it could possibly blanket the U.S. As more people get connected to the Internet, this will happen more and more frequently. 

So what’s a person to do to avoid spreading these types of infections? Here are some ideas:

  1. Keep your anti-virus software current. Any new virus could easily slip through the Anti-Virus software net because…. “IT’S NEW”. That’s why we have to keep updating our ant-virus software on a regular basis. 
  2. Turn OFF the automatic preview of email messages. Don’t let the computer open and run a new message until you have had a chance to look at it and think about it. 
  3. Turn off any options in your email program that automatically load code, play sounds, open files, display fancy web pages, etc. 
  4. Don’t open messages AND particularly attachments from people you don’t know and always scan them first. 
  5. I always download my email and then read messages off line. That way a virus can’t send itself to my other friends unless the computer dials the modem, and I have a chance to unplug the phone cord first. 
  6. Keep your security settings on the web browser set at a high level. 
  7. BACKUP YOUR DATA. If you did get infected by this virus, you could be spending the day erasing your hard drive and re-loading your software. 
  8. Get in the habit of looking at computer web sites which describe computer security and virus problems. Just like checking the weather in a distant city before you leave for vacation. You don't have to do it often, but if it's hurricane season, it makes sense to know where to look. 

You can find computer security information and advice at many web sites. 

If you don’t know where to start, try the links I have on my web site at www.mltweb.com/tools/purchase.htm


MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 11/26/2016