Computer viruses have invaded our homes, our businesses,
and other facets of our lives. New computer viruses anonymously spread from
machine to machine with depressing ease, ravaging data as they do their
dirty work until the computer’s functioning goes awry. And in an era where
people are storing more and more personal information on their computers,
these viruses couldn’t be more devastating.
Worms, viruses and Trojan horses? No, we’re not talking
about those outdoor squiggly creatures, the causative agent of an infectious
disease, or the deceptive wooden horse in the Greek legend. Rather, these
terms refer to the varying strains of digitally degenerative parasites, or
destructive viral programs.
According to NetLingo, a virus is a program that
replicates itself on computer systems by incorporating itself into other
programs that are shared on a system or network. They’re known for their
ability to spread overnight from one computer to millions of others around
the world, causing them to crash.
A computer worm is a self-contained program (or set of
programs) that is able to spread functional copies of itself or its segments
to other computer systems. The propagation usually takes place via network
connections or email attachments. To get rid of a worm you just need to
delete the program.
As its name implies, a Trojan horse is a type of
computer virus that comes disguised as a program that performs some
unexpected or unauthorized, usually malicious, action, such as displaying
messages, erasing files or formatting a disk. A Trojan horse doesn’t infect
other host files, thus cleaning is not
necessary. It usually happens like this: People
download a program from the Internet, start it up, and then find out it
contained a virus after it erases their hard drive and wreaks havoc on the
Compared to five years ago, viruses are now more
destructive, and less prone to early detection by the average computer user.
Years ago, computer viruses were taciturn, frustrating, and only sometimes
devastating, typically transferred from computer to computer (similar to the
spread of poison ivy) through shared disks. Today’s viruses are so clever
they can deceptively address you by name and send you information you
supposedly requested. They can even deceive you into thinking you’ve
received a message from your bank, your credit card company, or someone you
supposedly know. Viruses surreptitiously propagate with deadly swiftness;
they can use macro languages to perform automated tasks and automatically
email themselves to everyone in your address book shortly after infecting
your computer. All it takes is executing the wrong attached file from
electronic mail and you can trigger the launch of a nasty virus program
within your system. Then, your computer can experience symptoms ranging from
a few malfunctioning programs and deleted files to the complete expunging of
your hard drive and crashing of your computer.
In a nutshell, here’s how viruses work: A virus
contains precisely programmed instructions to self-replicate over and over
again. After gaining initial entry to your system — through an infected
email attachment, or a program downloaded from the Internet — the virus
attaches itself to your computer like a leech. From there, it infects any
program that you attempt to open and run. Viruses can rewrite your computer
program in seconds, instructing it to allow the virus to run first. Then,
it’s only a matter of time before the user realizes that the computer has
been attacked by a malicious computer virus.
Seeing as the “bad guys” seem to be getting smarter
(and younger), computer users should get smarter, too. Educate yourself on
the various virus strains that are currently “in the wild,” as they say.
Install anti-virus software on every computer and network server. Back-up
your computer’s content regularly with a reliable backup program. Virus
definitions should be updated monthly, too, and any questionable files
received via email should be saved to a disk and scanned before opening.
Before purchasing any anti-virus software, check out
thorough reviews at http://anti-virus-software-review.toptenreviews.com.
McAfee.com suggests computer users take the following
precautions in order to avoid computer viruses: Don’t open any files
attached to an email from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.
Don’t open a file attachment unless you know what it is, even if it appears
to come from someone you know. Delete junk email and don’t forward or reply
to them. Exercise caution when downloading files from the Internet by
ensuring the legitimacy of the source. Update your anti-virus software
regularly because over 500 viruses are discovered each month. Back up your
files on a regular basis. If a virus destroys your files, at least you can
replace them with your back-up copy. When in doubt, always err on the side
of caution and do not open, download, or execute any files or email
attachments. Not executing is the most important of these caveats.
It is said that 1 in every 30 computers will be
infected by a virus this year. Take the necessary precautions to make sure
that yours isn’t that one.
For information on other types of viruses not mentioned
in this article, visit www.buzzle.