Avoiding Computer Viruses

Computers & TechnologySite Security

  • Author Sam Carrubba
  • Published January 20, 2010
  • Word count 1,067

Computer viruses are called viruses because they share some of the traits of biological viruses. Computer viruses can be hidden in pirated software or in other files or programs that you may download.

Viruses can increase their chances of spreading to other computers by infecting files on a network file system or a file system that is accessed by another computer. Viruses are sometimes confused with computer worms and Trojan horses, which are technically different. Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Viruses do not infect compressed files, unless the file was infected prior to the compression. Viruses begin to work and spread when you start up the program or application of which the virus is present. Viruses can use standard method of infecting a file by adding their body to the end of file, or replace files with their body destroying the original content of a file, or become companion viruses.

Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojans, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware, and other malicious and unwanted software, including true viruses.

The first PC virus in the wild was a boot sector virus dubbed (c)Brain[7], created in 1986 by the Farooq Alvi Brothers, operating out of Lahore, Pakistan, reportedly to deter piracy of the software they had written. Traditional computer viruses emerged in the 1980s, driven by the spread of personal computers and the resultant increase in BBS, modem use, and software sharing. Shareware and bootleg software were equally common vectors for viruses on BBS's. Within the "pirate scene" of hobbyists trading illicit copies of retail software, traders in a hurry to obtain the latest applications were easy targets for viruses.

Files

If the virus scanner fails to notice that such a virus is present in memory the virus can "piggy-back" on the virus scanner and in this way infect all files that are scanned.

Internet

A true virus can only spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance, because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive. An Internet based research revealed that there were cases when people willingly pressed a particular button to download a virus. To help avoid viruses, it's essential that you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools, stay informed about recent threats, run your computer as a standard user (not as administrator), and that you follow a few basic rules when you surf the Internet, download files, and open attachments. The most popular Windows Internet Relay Chat (IRC) utility known as mIRC proved to be "hole" allowing virus scripts to transmit themselves along the IRC-channels.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software can detect it by decrypting the viruses using an emulator, or by statistical pattern analysis of the encrypted virus body. Anti-virus programs aren't very good at detecting Trojan horseprograms, so be extremely careful about opening binary files and Word/Exceldocuments from unknown or 'dubious' sources. Anti-virus systems need to be kept updated at all times in order to adequately block the latest computer viruses. Some viruses try to avoid detection by killing the tasks associated with antivirus software before it can detect them.

Microsoft Products

Most of these viruses are written in the scripting languages for Microsoft programs such as Word and Excel and spread throughout Microsoft Office by infecting documents and spreadsheets. Although most of these viruses did not have the ability to send infected e-mail, those viruses which did, took advantage of the Microsoft Outlook COM interface.

News

News reports are not always technically accurate, for example, journalists don't know the difference between a computer virus and a worm. Recent Posts Happy TweetsGivingLarge Hadron Collider has first collisions Auto-captions come to YouTubeComputer viruses leech off 'Twilight' sequelUnsolved math problem turns 150Status update: Dude, I'm shredding this video gameNew $100 handheld device only tweetsWi-Fi scale tweets your weight loss (or gain)'God of War' comes to the PS3News Corp.

Ways To Protect Yourself..

Protect yourself by using anti-virus programs to scan your incoming e-mail attachments and alerting you if one is infected. You should make sure that Macro Virus Protection is enabled in all Microsoft applications, and you should NEVER run macros in a document unless you know what they do. Newer versions of Word allow you to customize the level of macro protection you use. Microsoft applications have a feature called Macro Virus Protection built into them to prevent this sort of virus. With Macro Virus Protection turned on (the default option is ON), the auto-execute feature is disabled. You can protect yourself against viruses with a few simple steps: If you are truly worried about traditional (as opposed to e-mail) viruses, you should be running a more secure operating system like UNIX. If you are using an unsecured operating system, then buying virus protection software is a nice safeguard. Computer viruses cannot infect write protected disks or infect written documents. Configure the programs to automatically download updates, making it easy to stay protected. If you are unable to save a document in Microsoft Word, your computer may have a macrovirus. Anti-virus software also needs to be regularly updated in order to prevent the latest threats. By arming your computer and preventing computer viruses before they attack, it will help you stay one step ahead of the latest virus outbreak. Launch your anti-virus program and follow the necessary steps to download the latest updates. Once each month, download and install the latest virus signature file for your virus software. Anti-virus systems need to be kept updated at all times in order to adequately block the latest computer viruses. Make sure that you have the latest security patches for your computer software; it is vital to implement software patches as soon as they become available, because viruses are most potent in the first hours and days after their release.

Computer viruses are most easily spread by attachments in e-mail messages or by instant messaging messages. If you depend on the information stored on your personal computer, you need to understand how computer viruses spread, and you should use anti-virus software to reduce the chance that a computer virus will infect your programs and files. Relying on anti viruses alone is not enough.

Sam is the owner of Carrubba Computertec Consultancy, and works as an IT consultant.

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