VIRUS-AFFECTED INTERNET USERS GET DISCONNECTED IN THE COOK ISLANDS

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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (October 8, 2001 – Cook Islands Herald/PINA Nius Online)---If your computer continues to mail bomb everyone in your address book, then your account could be suspended.

This is the message several local businesses with virus-infected computers have received from Telecom Cook Islands.

"The user, once warned, is given two days to rid themselves of the virus(es). If they don't, then their account will be suspended," said Telecom Cooks Islands Information Systems Manager Robert McFadzien.

Complaints from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in New Zealand and Australia about Cook Islands users mail bombing their services resulted in Telecom Cook Islands looking at ways to stop the proliferation of viruses.

"The best solution we could think of was to make people take responsibility for their machine by cleaning up. The suspension of their Oyster account is to make them take this responsibility seriously," added McFadzien.

It is a tough call but infected organizations have been cooperative.

The Development Investment Board (DIB) was the recipient of one such letter. After being infected with the W.32 Sircam virus, one of their computers began sending out infected files to other Internet users.

"In the case of DIB, TCI took an interest, because their reputation was at stake," said McFadzien. "In addition, DIB has a very large address book because it sends out newsletters. It would have looked really bad for them to be sending all their investors or subscribers viruses.

"DIB was very professional about cleaning their system.

"We voluntarily suspended our Internet account until our computers were cleaned, and our anti-virus programs were updated," said Development Investment Board chief executive Rohan Ellis.

"As a techno-savvy person, I had some ideas of remedies to apply. But I am concerned about our local users and how they are able to cope in the infested online world. Perhaps, TCI could help our local users by scanning all email for viruses," added Ellis.

Telecom Cook Islands does not have any formal procedures for monitoring viruses that slip pass Oyster.

"We have thousands of attempts each day on our system alone. The responsibility for protection lies with the user, not the ISP," said McFadzien.

McFadzien, on a regular basis, monitors mail traffic for unusual peaks. This often leads to virus discoveries.

"I saw some suspicious mail activity on Friday from an Internet café," said McFadzien. "It was constantly sending out an attachment every minute of the day. The attachment was a constant size each time and around the size of Sircam, so I asked the Internet team to contact them to check it out. I couldn't see the attachment contents so I am not sure if it is a virus."

Warning infected users to clean up not only protects other users, but the infected party too.

According to McFadzien, some viruses keep a connection online longer, while others start up the Internet connection on their own and start spreading, leaving the customer with a bill nastier than the virus.

"The bottom line is, if you get infected, it will cost you more in time and money fixing it once infected than it would to just download an update once a week and be more conscious about what you are opening," said McFadzien.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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