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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — As computer technology advances, so do methods hackers use to infiltrate networks and computer systems.

Fortunately for servicemembers and Department of Defense employees, the DOD provides them free software to protect their home computers from these attacks.

Recently, one newly discovered virus known as “Conficker” or “Downadup” gained notoriety, infecting more than 9 million computers, according to an article Thursday on CNET News online.

“If it finds a vulnerable computer, it turns off the automatic backup service, deletes previous restore points, disables some security services, blocks access to a number of security web sites and opens infected machines to receive additional programs from the malware’s creator,” stated a description of the virus on the Web site. “The worm then tries to spread itself to other computers on the same network.”

But even as hackers get craftier in how they infect computers, the best way to keep your personal computer safe is to keep it properly updated and to have a good anti-virus program.

“Most individuals don’t always keep their computers updated to the Microsoft or anti-virus software standards,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Nunez, the information system security manager at Yokota’s Wing Information Assurance Office, adding that the DOD provides free corporate editions of both Symantec and McAfee anti-virus software for home use.

Nunez explained that, commonly, viruses will infect a home computer when the user clicks a link to a malicious Web site embedded in an e-mail or on another Web site.

In the case of Conficker, the virus also tries to spread by copying itself into shared folders on networks and infecting USB devices such as memory sticks, according to Symantec.

Viruses that spread like this are the reason the Department of Defense has restricted the use of USB thumb drives and similar storage devices, Nunez said.

To prevent home systems from becoming infected, Nunez said that users should not only rely on updates and firewall protection, but they should also have reliable anti-virus software installed.

To obtain a copy of the free anti-virus software provided by the DOD, visit

To download the software, a user must access the site from a government computer.

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