Viruses change and evolve over time: And to protect your computer, so must you

Nov. 1, 2003

Computer viruses can wreak havoc on your bottom line because they continually evolve. Consider this:

* In the last two years, damage to computers and computer systems from viruses is estimated to be $13 billion.

* There have been six versions of the "So Big" virus since January.

* Some railroad routes were shut down on Aug. 20 because of a computer virus named "Blaster."

* "Slammer" hit in January.

* "Nimda" hit on 9/11/01.

* Microsoft spent $200 million on Windows Server 2003 just to beef up its security.

* The software industry estimates that purchases for computer security protection will be boosted by 10% this year, to $3.8 billion.

At the very least, you should be updating your anti-virus software on a regular basis. "Security is a very big issue," says David Duchesne, sales manager for ASA Tire Systems, one of the largest of 22 tire-related software providers to the industry. "A lot of our customers look to us for advice, and if you're in the tire business, you focus on tires -- not computers. So we continuously offer recommendations to them."

Brian Critchfield, global sales and marketing manager for Quality Design Systems Inc. (QDS), says his company is "more of a total solution provider for our customers and not just a provider of software."

QDS also hosts regular workshops and seminars to keep its customers up-to-date on technology and other business-related issues.

Most of the software vendors say they are not structured to support their customers with anti-virus software.

"As a routine procedure, we scan all of our software before we send it out, but our latest anti-virus measure was to tighten down on our own mail server so we don't pass along viruses to customers," says Mike Neyman of TCS Software.

"Our clients run on the AS400 system of IBM, and viruses affect only PCs," says Tom Yeager, marketing manager of MaddenCo Inc. "We seldom hear about (viruses affecting dealers' computer systems)."

Len Schneider, president of United Software & Design, agrees. "Most of the dealers do a minimum amount of surfing on the Internet -- they don't have time," he says. "We haven't heard of any of our clients being affected, but, just in case, we encourage our clients to install anti-virus software, have firewalls and keep their software updated."

Greg Palmer, president of Palmer Products, says most of his clients don't connect to the Internet, so they aren't affected by viruses or worms. "For the others, we tell them to install firewalls, anti-virus software, etc."

Of the dealers responding to Modern Tire Dealer's e-mailed 2003 Computer Survey, 95% of all independent tire dealers have a computer system with the capability to connect to the Internet. Almost half of those dealers have been affected by a virus or worm requiring some sort of maintenance at least once this year.

ASA recently joined forces with SonicWALL Inc. to bring integrated Internet security solutions to tire retailers throughout the United States. "This enables us to offer our customers SonicWALL's complete line of integrated security solutions, bringing secure remote connectivity to hundreds of tire dealers with widely distributed networks," says Duchesne.

"The tire industry has typically relied upon costly frame relay and point-to-point leased line technology to connect their locations; some are even using cumbersome dial-up connections. Everything is faster over the Internet, and this is the trend," he adds.

Dean Porterfield, general manager of Tire King, a 10-store retail chain based in Durham, N.C., relies heavily on the Internet. "Most of our stores already had Internet access for other business reasons. This new offering from ASA will keep our stores (and computer operations) secure while maintaining strong network performance."

Like ASA, QDS also has a partnership with SonicWALL. "For the larger dealers with broad-band access, we support them with SonicWALL services -- it's a plug-and-play box, meaning that it is a fail-safe, anti-virus solution with content filtering.

"For the smaller dealers who use dial-up connections, we set them up with popular anti-virus software such as Norton or MacAfee."

About the author: Hank Inman is a free-lance writer based in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.