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With viruses like Melissa ready to strike homebased computer systems at any given time, finding your best defense mechanism could mean playing a little offense.

This story appears in the July 1999 issue of

The "Melissa" virus put computer viruses on the front pages of the world's newspapers, and although it was allegedly named after a Florida topless dancer, the speed at which Melissa spread means it's time to start taking viruses more seriously. For years, I laughed off viruses--didn't even use antivirus software--but nowadays that casualness works about as well with computers as it does with sex. Protection matters.

But, first off, know that the majority of "viruses" you hear about--in frantic e-mails forwarded from colleagues or pals--are rubbish. Such as? Literally millions of e-mails have clogged the Net with warnings about "the AIDS virus," which supposedly "eats away" your memory. "When it's finished with memory, it infects your mouse . . . then it goes to your keyboard."

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