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Dear Editor:
Thank you for your recent editorial on "Immigration Law Firms And The Virus Attack." The Sobif.F spam/worm/virus, which is still raging and expanding, is by far the most serious threat I've ever seen to my own small law firm, which greatly relies on email. It seems obvious to me that at least one computer at an immigration law firm was compromised, because I got thousands and thousands of copies of the virus that purported to be from many prominent immigration lawyers, from ILW.COM, and from US immigration agencies. At one point I was marking for deletion hundreds of copies of the virus, including five that purported to be from the Vermont Service Center Premium Processing Unit. Only at the last moment, as I was about to hit the delete key, I noticed that one of those emails from the VSC Premium Processing Unit was a genuine approval notice. Working with a security consultant, I seem to have mainly blocked this current plague. But it was expensive. And I'm very worried about future mutations. As has been widely reported, the Sobif.F monster self-destructs on September 10. What comes on September 11? You missed one chilling detail in your editorial. Nowadays, you don't need to click on an attachment to have a worm/virus turn your computer into a frenzied spam-sending zombie. Many such malware programs (some called "adware" and "spyware") will infect your computer invisibly if you simply click on ads on web sites. I've seen estimates that more than 50 percent of the Windows computers in the world have some level of infection, even if antivirus software is running. Moreover, some viruses will be loaded if you simply open an email, without clicking on anything. I run extensive, multiple levels of security, and I'm hypersensitive about "safe computing," and in the midst of fixing up the Sobif.F damage to my mail server I discovered numerous viruses on my own network. And I run a mainly Linux network. I'll bet that at least one-third of the readers of Immigration Daily have computers that are already infected with multiple viruses. Be aware that even the best antivirus software programs are unable to detect or disable a large proportion of the malware epidemic. Be skeptical about all the claims from antivirus firms. One other thing. I'm still getting hundreds of emails from mail servers (many at major law firms) mailing me back copies of the Sobig.F virus and claiming that I sent it. This is an example of extreme stupidity by system administrators. Such "bounces" flood the net, waste expensive bandwidth at both ends, and continue to propagate the virus. The mail servers should be reconfigured to just "silently drop" any infected messages (in Linux speak, send 'em to /dev/null). I'm not a Linux expert by any means, but I was able to figure out how to do that on my own network in just a few minutes. I hate to say this. But I think the writing's on the wall. I think there is a serious risk that email as we know it is going to be dead within a year. I plan to brush up on my telephone skills.

Bruce A. Hake
Damascus, Maryland

Editor's Notes: (1) We believe that multiple computers at multiple immigration law firms have been compromised. (2) It is possible to be infected at the operating system level without using email at all, that is how the Blaster virus spread and that is why frequent patching is now necessary. (3) In some programs like Outlook Express, visual basic scripts may infect computers if the preview pane is turned on, so in addition to not opening attachments, it may be advisable to not use the preview function.