Computer Viruses and What to Do
Almost everyone knows someone who's computer either got infected with a virus, or perhaps is simply running slower, freezing or perhaps not allowing them access to the internet! In fact, it probably has probably happened to YOU! What really happened? After all, you probably only visit "respectable" sites? The fact is even on sites such as Facebook and others. when you are online (even if you are not sharing information, pictures, videos etc.), you are still susceptible to malicious programs that can cause damage to your computer.
What is a Computer Virus?
Simply put, it is a program which can be transmitted between computers via networks (especially the Internet) or removable storage devices (i.e. CDs, USB drives, floppy disks, etc) generally without the knowledge or consent of the recipient.
These viruses attach themselves to a program or file enabling it to spread from one computer to another, leaving infections as it travels. Similar to a human virus, a computer virus can range in severity: some can cause mildly annoying effects such as slowing down your computer, while others can damage to your hardware, software or files.
Virtually all viruses are attached to an executable file, which means that they may exist on your computer but cannot infect your computer unless you run or open the malicious program. The fact is a virus cannot spread without actual human action, such as running an infected program in order to keep it going.
Your best friends can be spreading computer viruses without even knowing. Many times, it happens by sharing infecting files or sending e-mails with viruses as attachments in the e-mail.
What Is a Worm?
Similar to the virus mentioned above, there is the dreaded worm. It is similar in design to a virus and can spread from computer to computer, but unlike a virus, it has the capability to travel without any human action.
Worm utilize file or information transport features on your computer system. This allows them to travel without human interaction. Like real life worms, computer worms can replicate themselves on your system. Then, rather than sending out a single worm, it could send out thousands of copies of itself.
Their ability to mask themselves makes them very difficult to detect. For example, a worm enters your computer, accesses your email contacts, and then replicates and sends itself out to everyone listed in your address book. This infects their computers, and then infects everyone in their email address book, and so on, and so on...
Many times worms will cause web servers, network servers, and individual computers too operate much slower and even to stop responding at all. Some have even been created to tunnel into your system and allow malicious users to enter and control your computer remotely.
What Is a Trojan Horse?
No... I am not referring to The mascot of the University of Southern California (my alma mater), or the historic mythological structure of the past, although it was named for it.
Typically, it first resembles a useful software program - but will actually do damage once installed or run on your computer. Once you open the file, thinking you are receiving legitimate software or files from a legitimate source, numerous annoying than malicious issues might commence like changes to your desktop. But they can also cause serious damage to your files and operating system by deleting files and destroying information on your system.
Similar to the actual Trojan horse, they can also create backdoors on your computer that gives malicious users access to your system. This can allow your confidential or personal information (or those of others on your system) to be compromised. Luckily, unlike viruses and worms mentioned above, Trojans do not reproduce by infecting other files nor do they self-replicate.
What Are Blended Threats?
Are there things worse than viruses, worms and Trojan Horses? Yes. There are "Blended Threats". These are more advanced and bundle several of the worst aspects of viruses, worms, Trojan horses and malicious code into a single threat. They can find and use server and Internet vulnerabilities to initiate, then transmit and also spread an attack. For this reason, they can cause damage to not only the infected system or network, but can propagate using multiple methods and can attack from multiple points using multiple modes of transport and multiple routes (email, IRC and file sharing networks).
What Can You do to Prevent or Remove These Attacks?
As in everything in life, the first step is prevention. With the ever-increasing deceptiveness of malicious individuals, it is important to stay up to date. Those that have been infected and lost valuable time, files, and probably a whole lot of money will be the first to attest to this.
The first area to protect is your operating system by making sure it is up-to-date. This is essential if you are running a Microsoft operating system.
Next, you should always have anti-virus software installed on your system and ensure you download updates frequently to ensure your software has the latest fixes for new viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Many have an automated feature to ensure you are getting updates. Further, you need to make sure that the anti-virus program you select has the capability to scan e-mail and files as they are downloaded from the Internet. Also, be sure that you run full disk scans periodically. This will help prevent malicious programs from even reaching your computer.
Other safeguards include installing a firewall. That is a system that prevents unauthorized use and access to your computer. There are different types (hardware and software).
Hardware firewalls provide a strong degree of protection against most forms of attack coming from the outside world and can be purchased either as a stand-alone product or via broadband routers. However, when battling worms, viruses, Trojans, etc. a hardware firewall may not be as effective as a effective software firewall, as it could possibly ignore embedded worms in outgoing e-mails. The reason is it may see this as normal traffic.
For individual home users, the most common firewall choice is a software firewall. This can assist you by protecting your computer from outside attempts to gain access and or control your computer, and usually provides additional protection against the more common Trojan programs or e-mail worms. Keep in mind though, that software firewalls are limited in that they only protect the computer they are installed on, not the entire network, and that firewalls on their own will not eliminate your virus problems. They should be used in conjunction with everything mentioned above.
Let's face it. For many of us, computers are not only a luxury or form of entertainment, they are a real integral part of our business. No one wants to operate a computer that is running slower, freezing up, or fearing that someone else might be monitoring everything they are doing and capturing privy information.
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