Windows 95 and Anti-Virus Software

Technology Focus By Alfred Giovetti Windows 95 is taking over the landscape. Bill Gates' new operating system was launched with much fanfare, and the time since has been quite exciting, from the Judgment Day Halloween party with the theme of DOS is Dead, to many other hyped presentations from the Seattle-based company. Windows 95 accounting followed the introduction of the operating system. SourceMate Information Systems introduced Visual AccountMate, a Windows 95 accounting system. The fully 32-bit system is based upon Microsoft's Visual Fox Pro. Visual AccountMate supports as many as 52 accounting periods, multiple warehouses, drop shipments, and other interesting features. The interface looks and works like a tabbed notebook with grouped options under each tab. As with many Windows 95 programs, bubble help explains the functions of the tool bar and icons when you leave the cursor resting on top of them. The program has some contact management features, such as the phone dialer, plus hundreds of canned reports, and ten different graph types. The mandatory System Manager retails for $695, while each module, including General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Purchase Order, Sales Order, Inventory Control, Manufacturer's Inventory, Payroll, E-Power Contact Management, and Job Cost Modules, retail for $995. Source code for modules is available at $1295 each where available. Virus Immunization Shots Now that the income tax season has started, most accountants turn their attentions to the love and support of their life. No, not their spouses, unless they are in the business, but their tax businesses. To most accountants, their tax business is the bread and butter (or, as some say, the gravy) business of accounting. So, in December , January, and on into the first quarter of the year, our thoughts turn to tax preparation and the profits it will bring. But we should also be thinking of virus protection. Earlier this year my computers were infected by several viruses, specifically Michaelangelo, Stone, AntiEXE, GoodTyme, and Da Boyz. These viruses ate my computers alive. They killed two hard drives and ground the system down until it was so slow as to be useless. (Yes, disasters even happen to the technologically gifted.) And while the virus attack was devastating, think what would have happened if it occurred during tax season. How can you protect yourself from this event occurring in your office? Well, I have prepared a summary of the top proprietary anti-virus software packages in the nation. There are many good shareware programs floating around, and if you are on the internet or one of the major services they download for free and have small update fees. Commercial packages are more expensive, but have more professional support and are more readily available. So read on and profit from the experience. What types of disks can result in viruses? Not just the dirty floppy that has been passed around from machine to machine but also the shiny new CD-ROM disks directly from manufacturers. It becomes imperative to search all disks. Viruses have become more devious in their ability to hide (stealth), to change by encryption (polymorph), and, most sinister of all, to proliferate from the fertile minds of virus creators and appear as the most dangerous virus of all, a brand new one. Virus scanners work by recognizing a virus after it has been "caught", "isolated," and "studied". New viruses cannot be easily detected because their signature and identity are not known to the virus protection software. Updates and support are essential for effective virus software. Good virus software will remain as a memory resident program, commonly referred to as temporary and stay resident or TSR, which will detect any viruses when the system starts up or when software is loaded into the computer. Another essential feature is the ability to scan compressed or "zipped" files for viruses. And the most important feature is the ability to detect the viruses by scanning the operating system, boot sectors, and files of your system on demand and eliminate or kill the infecting viruses. Since many viruses add themselves to other files and may lie about the length of their program to hide the fact that they have piggybacked on these other normal and essential files, an integrity checking feature is needed to snoop them out. Integrity checking maintains a snapshot of the hard drive with all file names and sizes to help detect these piggy-back viruses. Another feature needed by virus software is the ability to block the virus software from dropping information into existing files. This blocking behavior effectively stops virus activity by recognizing that the virus imprinting itself is not a function of the program that you are currently running. By blocking the infection the virus is prevented from spreading, duplicating, and altering files. Central Point Anti-Virus scans zip files and provides good reports, but has spotty detection of boot infectors, scans slowly and hangs repeatedly, and has large memory requirements. Like many virus detection software, Central Point is far from perfect but does a passable job on most viruses. Central Point Anti-Virus, Price $129, Symantec Corporation, 10201 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, CA 95014, (408) 253-9600. Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit is one of the fastest and most accurate scanner, detector, and destroyer of boot, program, and zipped viruses, with the only exception being the missing of some dropper viruses. The program comes with quarterly updates. It has an annoying feature of instructing other antivirus programs not to detect viruses identified, preventing you from using other software to confirm or deny the detection of a virus. Dr. Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit, Price: $125 (DOS and Windows, $149 (Os/2), $595 (Netware), S&S Software International, 17 New England Executive Park, Burlington, MA 01803, (617) 273-7400. F-Prot Professional is a commercial version of the shareware program F-Prot. Professional versions of software typically come with a manual and professional support. F-Prot Professional has 24-hour, 7-day-a-week tech support on a toll number and quarterly updates for the low price. No software is perfect, and F-Prot Professional failed to detect zipped viruses. This program is good but still incomplete. Unfortunately, the shareware version, while it is a fast scanning program with low RAM and requirements, has no integrity checking, nor does it scan for sipped viruses. Other areas of deficiency include support, which is almost non-existent. F-Prot Professional, retail price: $169.90 single user version, Command Software, 1061 East Indiantown Road, Suite 500, Juniper, FL 33458, (800) 423-9147. F-Prot shareware version is free for personal use and $20 for commercial use. Fisk Software International, Postholf 7180, IS-127 Reykjavik, Iceland. IBM AntiVirus is a standard commerical product which will run on DOS 3.3 and requires 11 K of high memory to run. IBM AntiVirus can detect and destroy file infections, boot infections, and compressed file infections, but does not provide integrity checking, scans slowly, and has a poorly written and indexed manual. IBM AntiVirus, Price: $49, IBM Corporation, 1 East Kirkwood Boulevard, Roanoke, TX 76299, (800) 742-2493 McAfee VirusScan is a program that his received much notoriety of late. >From a newly formed company that sprang from nothing into immediate prominence, the product surprisingly has holes in its antiviral arsenal. McAfee is a fast scanning, extremely efficient detector and destroyer of boot sector and all other viruses, save the zipped virus, but uses too much memory (29K of high memory and 66 K of XMS (extended memory) memory. McAfee VirusScan, Price $65 for DOS version, McAfee Incorporated, 2710 Walsh Avenue, Santa Clara, CA 95051, (408) 988-3832. Norton AntiVirus for DOS and Windows can scan many zipped files, boot sectors, and normal viruses. The program is fast but does not scan self-decompressing zip files correctly, misses some common viruses, and uses too much conventional memory (31K RAM). Technical support is available on a toll number from 7 am to 5 pm PST. Norton AntiVirus for Windows and DOS, Price: $129, Symantec Corporation, 10201 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, CA 95014, (408) 253-9600. References: Cybec Virus information General Anti virus links: article on how to choose anti virus software IBM Anti Virus Symantic central point antivirus Norton Anti Virus McAfee Dr. Solomonís Anti Virus Toolkit F-Prot Anti Virus Thunder Byte Anti Virus Carmel Anti Virus