BY Toneo T Rutsito
Most people tend to describe whatever kind of computer problem they have as a virus! So long as the computer does not respond as expected, they have wrongfully or unjustifiably given all the merit to the virus.
This has prompted me to really question, what is a computer virus?
How much can it really do and how do we identify and stop this sinister programme before it sends shivers down our spine like the Y2K bug.
In brief, a virus is a small piece of software that attaches itself on real programmes, each time that programme is executed. The virus also runs along it thus executing itself and affecting the computer files, or programmes and if not both.
Some viruses are meant to affect your computer system files, especially windows, yet some just go straight to your personal data.
Unfortunately, I have some bad news, if you are running your computer on any windows system, be it windows XP, Vista, or 7, you are at a much risk than someone running a Linux platform, or
Apple’s Mac OS X. Microsoft, the creators of windows has managed to create more enemies than friends in their history to success thus in the line, has also exposed its customers who are now victims of a struggle they ought not to know.
To make the long story short, Microsoft does not support the open source, free public gnu neither does it generously give its source code out like the unix platforms.
Many gifted programmers (hackers) have the joy and passion of trying to wrack it down every time they test a virus, yet very few would even want to try their wares on Linux or Apple.
This does not mean there are no viruses in these platforms but they are very low instances and the creators really are not motivated.
Any Microsoft product is an easy target and that’s the main reason why viruses will never disappear soon. The Mac OSX guys from Apple claim that their systems cannot be attacked by any kind of virus but lately their Hollywood animation mainframes failed the litmus test and almost rendered them useless.
The other type of virus is the email virus. These are transferred as an attachment to the email message.
It replicates itself by automatically mailing itself to lots of people in the victim’s address book.
Most email viruses are self replicating, they don’t need user intervention to replicate but once they hit your machine they go ahead and search your address book, and sends e-mails to unsuspecting recipients, most gullible users, will probably accept and run these suspicious mails for some unknown reasons, naivety! Thanks to antispam
The effects of viruses are limited but not only to, slow computer start-ups or shutdowns, continuous restarts, programmes and documents like word or excel may be infected and fail to run.
A computer’s hard drive suddenly runs out of disk space, strange sounds coming from the keyboard and speakers folder, virtual memory low, folder names keep changing and then the infamous shortcut folder.
System files like the macros, disk clusters, source codes and batch files may have been infected.
They are many different types of viruses and they amount to more than ten varying from how they operate.
Personally I have had an opportunity to deal with the infamous short cut virus which turns all your folders to short cuts or continuously creates a folder to a folder till infinity.
The sad news is as you curiously click through these folders you are actually helping the virus to attack your files, and also your memory so every uninfected file you then open from there will always be infected.
Sources of computer viruses really differ depending with the type of the computer and the user’s activity but the main infections are through the Internet, flush disk drives, compact discs, distributed emails and the old floppy drives.
We will discuss about worms, Trojan horses, and spywares in other articles.
I cannot also write about the best remedies or antivirus packages in this article but will give all that attention in my future articles about antivirus and other defence line, as it is a lengthy issue on its own.
If you suspect an email virus has infected you, it is advisable that you inform people in your address book not to run mails from your address.
The basic advice is to always have a good antivirus package and download updates.
You should never open emails you don’t know or trust the source.
This has been the oldest trick in the books do not fall for it. No matter how secure your computer system is poor human intervention would be the weakest link in your chain, unfortunately