New 'V-Card' attacks computer viruses
Not the painter, the computer virus. It struck personal computers worldwide on March 6, the birthday of the great Renaissance artist, wiping out memory banks from Baltimore to Beijing.
Now there's a new type of virus making the rounds.
Known as "polymorphics," these pesky viruses inflict varying degrees of damage on computer files. Depending on the version, polymorphic programs can trash files or obliterate them completely.
Polymorphics can randomly change their electronic "fingerprints." That makes them all but immune to conventional anti-virus programs, which rely on fingerprints to identify viruses.
One defense against polymorphic attacks is the V-Card System from Digital Enterprises in Gaithersburg. The company manufactures hardware and software of its own design.
Digital claims its new V-Card System can sniff out and destroy polymorphics -- and more than 1,000 other computer viruses. According to Digital, users of the V-Card System need never worry about viruses again.
"We developed the V-Card System to answer the problem of viruses being written faster than anti-viral programs can track them," said Frank Huggins, Digital president.
Unlike most conventional anti-viral programs, the V-Card System constantly updates and stores backup copies of computer files. When suspicious codes surface, computer users are immediately notified of the change.
Users have the option of letting the file remain in the changed form, or recovering the previous version.
That way, even if a virus slips in and damages files, they can be instantly reconstructed, said Doug Jones, a documentation specialist at Digital.
And unlike most other anti-viral programs, which must be updated regularly to keep their fingerprint files current, the V-Card System never needs updating.
The V-Card System combines a hard disc, which permanently bolts inside the computer, and a software program. Price: $495 for the next two months. After that, the price goes up $795.
The V-Card System is available exclusively through Digital.
Computer security meeting tomorrow
Speaking of computer viruses, the National Computer Security Conference will hold its 15th annual meeting in Baltimore starting tomorrow at the Baltimore Convention Center.
The conference, which runs through Friday, will explore the dangers of polymorphics, worms and other electronic troublemakers that undermine computer security.
Dozens of computer experts are scheduled to present tutorials, workshops and panel sessions on subjects including virus experiences, software forensics and network security.
The event, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Computer Security Center, is open to the public. The cost is $315.
For more information, call NIST at (301) 975-2775.
Free information offered to retirees
Are you a retiree who could use some help evaluating all those important issues that affect life in the golden years, like life insurance options, estate planning -- and sex after 60?
Associated Enterprise Inc./Telesonic, an Annapolis-based telecommunications company, offers a free information service with subjects of interest to retirees.
Callers with a touch-tone phone can listen to recorded messages on more than two dozen topics, including Social Security benefits, long-term care insurance and job opportunities.
There's even a message on "Sex after 60." And what will listeners learn from that particular message, billed as a lifestyle topic?
"Probably nothing you don't already know," mused Helen Becker, a spokeswoman for AEI/Telesonic.
Messages range in length from 2 1/2 to 5 minutes. Some offer supplemental information by fax. Both the phone and fax services are free.
At least until Oct. 31.
Telesonic is negotiating to sell the Retirement Information Service to a large financial services company after the test phase concludes on that date. Ms. Becker said the service "probably" will continue to be offered free after that.
To try out the service from the Baltimore and Annapolis areas, call (410) 841-5021. In Washington or suburban Maryland, call (301) 858-6558.
The service, developed with a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, also is accessible to hearing- and speech-impaired callers through the use of telephone devices for the deaf.
If you're forever fumbling for the name of a local computer consultant, listen up.
The Washington Chapter of the Independent Computer Consultants' Association has released the latest edition of its consultants' directory -- and it's free.
The directory includes a listing of almost 100 members in the Baltimore/Washington/Richmond areas who specialize in networking, custom programming, documentation, training and other computer-related issues.
For a free copy of the directory, call the association at (703) 709-8327.
But call soon. When the directories are gone, so is the offer.
* More computer news, including software reviews and columns by Michael Himowitz and Peter Lewis, can be found on Page 20B.