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Give your Network a Flu Shot

The 'From' name on the email message looks familiar, and the subject line -- "Hi!" or "I have a question" -- is believable. Maybe you knew someone with that first name in high school, and think it's a long-lost friend getting back in touch. Or maybe it's a question
from a member, patient, or customer. You open the email, but it doesn't contain a message from a long-lost friend: Instead, it contains a virus which infects your computer.

How could you have averted this problem?

All of the recent worms and viruses of note have exploited known security flaws (and user gullability). Anti-virus software helps by identifying known viruses in email attachments and quarantining or removing these portions of the message, but clearly the problem is not under control -- new viruses continue to make headlines for the destruction they wreak on networks across the world. It's time that we start treating our computers' health the way we treat our own -- proactively.

To illustrate this point, let's look at human viruses like the flu and the common cold. To reduce the spread of these viruses, we take precautionary measures such as covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze, washing our hands frequently, and even using hand-sanitizing soaps and lotions. These techniques help keep us from getting sick from the viruses around us, but unless we live in a fully sterilized environment, we cannot avoid some contact with germs and viruses. So how can we protect ourselves?

In the fall, many of us receive flu shots. In exchange for a sore arm for a day, we greatly reduce our chances of catching the flu over the following winter. Each year, these flu shots are concocted to thwart the most common current flu strains circulating. After a flu shot, you will not be susceptible to infection from the common strains against which you have been inoculated.

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