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How to Protect Computer Programs

TODAY is Friday, Oct. 13, the day that the Datacrime '89 computer virus is set to destroy information stored on the disk drives of IBM and compatible microcomputers running the MS-DOS operating system, according to the Computer Virus Industry Assocation. Computer viruses are small programs that insert copies of themselves into programs commonly found on personal computers. (Computer worms, like the one that took over the Internet, make copies of themselves without modifying other programs.)

Datacrime '89 probably won't affect many people, says Linnaea Avenell of the assocation.

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``We have had only seven reported incidents in the last six months.... We think that it is very rare, that it has been a lot of media hype, and that there are plenty of other viruses that people should be aware of. We get 30 calls a day about the Jerusalem virus,'' she says, referring to another computer virus that affects IBM-compatible computers.

Computer users who trade many programs with friends have a higher risk of a virus attack than those who only use programs that are obtained directly from manufacturers. Computers in public areas that are used by many people have a greater chance of being infected than those in closed offices.

The best way to protect against viruses is to make frequent backup copies of important programs and information. Backups also protect against equipment malfunction and operator error - both of which destroy far more information than viruses.

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