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COMPUTER VIRUSES

WHAT ARE VIRUSES AND HOW DO I PREVENT THEM

Viruses - A virus is a software program that is capable of replicating with little or no user intervention, and the replicated programs also replicate further. Viruses piggyback on real programs. For example, a virus may attach itself to a program such as a spreadsheet program. Each time the spreadsheet program runs, the virus runs as well, and it has the opportunity to reproduce by attaching to other programs. The purpose of a virus can be anything from erasing files, formatting your hard drive, to replacing text in your document. Viruses are often disguised as games or images with clever titles such as "Pictures of ME".

E-mail Viruses- An email virus moves around in e-mail messages, and usually replicates itself by automatically mailing itself to the people in the victim's e-mail address book.

Worms- A worm is a virus that spreads by creating duplicates of itself on other drives, systems, or networks. Worms may send copies of themselves to other computers across network connections, through e-mails, through infected web pages, or through instant messages.

Trojan Horses- This program may claim to do one thing (such as claiming to be a game) but instead does damage when you run it. Trojan horses are not technically viruses, since they do not replicate.

HOW VIRUSES SPREAD

When you execute program code that is infected by a virus, the virus code will also run and try to infect other programs, either on the same computer or on other computers connected to it over a network. And the newly infected programs will try to infect yet more programs. When you share a copy of an infected file with other computer users, running the file may also infect their computers; and files from those computers may spread the infection to yet more computers.

For example, if your computer is infected with a boot sector virus, the virus tries to write copies of itself to the system areas of floppy disks and hard disks. Then the infected floppy disks may infect other computers that boot from them, and the virus copy on the hard disk and will try to infect still more floppies.

HOW TO AVOID VIRUSES

  • Install antivirus software, update regularly, and use it regularly.
  • Do regular backups. If you contract a virus it may be the only way to recover your data. Ideally, you should backup your entire system on a regular basis, however if this is not practical, at least backup files that you can't afford to lose or that would be difficult to replace: documents, bookmark files, address books, important emails, etc.
  • When possible, avoid e-mail attachments both when sending and receiving e-mail.
  • Never open email attachments with the file extensions VBS, SHS, or PIF. These extensions are almost never used in normal attachments but they are frequently used by viruses and worms.
  • Never open attachments with double file extensions such as NAME.BMP.EXE or NAME.TXT.VBS.
  • If you feel that an e-mail you get from a friend is strange (if it is a foreign language or it just says odd things) double check with the friend before opening any attachments.
  • When you receive e-mail advertisements or unsolicited e-mail, do not open attachments.
  • Avoid attachments with sexual file names.
  • Do not trust the icons of attachment file. Worms often use executable files which have an icon resembling icons of picture, text, or archive files to fool the user.
  • Never accept attachments from strangers in online chat systems such as IRC, ICQ, or MSN/AOL/YAHOO Instant Messenger.
  • Avoid using floppies to exchange information between computers.

WHAT IS AN ANTI-VIRUS

Antivirus software is software installed on your computer that protects you from viruses. Simple enough but what it is actually doing is scanning each and every file that you download, receive via email or download onto your computer. Antivirus software programs can contain between 40,000 - 100,000 "virus definitions" that are updated on a daily or as needed basis.

When you purchase antivirus software you receive the software but the definitions that you receive are the real value in your purchase. So, most new antivirus comes with 1 year of virus protection. If you get software with a new computer, then your software may come with 3 or 6 months of virus updates. Once those have expired, then you need to extend the service or purchase new software. Expired antivirus software becomes more and more useless every day.

Anti-Virus Protection: There are many anti-virus solutions available some better than other. Any anti-virus solution is better than no solution. However, NOD 32 Anti-Virus is the only one that can claim 100% protection for the last 7-1/2 years. Norton (Symantec), McCafee, and Trend Micro's PCillian are good products but are NOT 100% effective. When you consider that there are 100s of thousands of viruses out there any protection less than 100% is just not acceptable. With that said, no Anti-Virus solution is complete if it is not kept up to date. I can't stress this enough. Viruses are created daily and appear "in the wild" so if you have an Anti-Virus that came with your computer when you purchased it and it has been over 90 days since the purchase date and you have not signed up to extend the coverage and kept the solution updated you are NOT PROTECTED. The cost of NOD 32 and most anti-virus solutions is $40.00 for the first year and $20.00+ per year after that. If that seems excessive consider that if you getting hit with a virus attack and have to call a computer technician to fix your computer it will cost you a lot more in the long run and you can lose all of your data as well. NOD 32 Anti Virus is available from Computer Guy.

ISP Anti-Virus Protection: I have found the the Anti-Virus and Spyware protection offered by the Internet Service Providers (ISP) just don't work well at all. Some even cause lots of problems and conflicts with your computer. Protection of your computer data is solely your responsibility. Do yourself a favor and forget about protection offered by Adelphia, AOL, Earthlink, Verizon and the like. Protect yourself with the best Virus and Spyware protection available.