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A computer virus is a segment of code or a program that is written with the intent of doing harm to another user's machine. Viruses are capable of self-replicating and inserting themselves into other files. Word-processed documents and e-mail attachments are two areas where viruses thrive. Once inserted into a file, the virus cannot run until the file is opened. Then, the virus will follow its programmed instructions, ranging from displaying annoying messages on the screen to destroying other files. (What is a Computer Virus)
If a computer shows symptoms of a virus infestation, the first thing to do is to remove the machine from any network to which it is connected. This will prevent the virus from spreading to other machines. Then, run a virus scan on the affected machine. If the scan reveals a virus, it is sometimes possible to disinfect the file. Most times, deletion of the infected file is the only way to completely remove the virus. Re-scan the computer after any virus-infected files have been removed to ensure all traces of the virus have been deleted. ("I Have a Virus - Now What?" How to Remove a Computer Virus)
Even after a virus has been removed, prevention is the best means of keeping a computer clean. Using a firewall with the Internet browser reduces the risk of a virus getting on the machine. Keeping the anti-virus software and the operating system software up-to-date lessens the chance of having a virus on the computer undetected. Using a firewall with the internet browser and only downloading data from trusted sources reduces the risk of a virus getting on the machine. And lastly, keeping a clean PC reduces the chance of spreading a virus to another computer. ("I Have a Virus - Now What?" How to Remove a Computer Virus)
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What was the Worst Virus?
The title of "Worst Virus" is held equally by two from the late Nineties. Both the "LoveLetter" and "Melissa" viruses are viewed as equally destructive and both used Microsoft Outlook's address book to spread. The Melissa virus used Outlook e-mail to generate lots of Internet traffic in a short amount of time to clog Internet servers. The LoveLetter virus went further. It hid MP3 and system registry files as well as corrupting image files. (Thorsberg, 2002)
What's Out There Now?
Of the numerous viruses currently infecting computers, two are topping the charts of anti-virus manufacturer's websites. They are the Conficker strain of worms and the Win32/Frethog group of trojan horses.
First on the list, the Conficker virus has several versions of the same basic worm, each designated by letter code. This is a destructive worm that targets a vulnerability in the Windows Server service to gain access to a computer. It seeks Administrator privileges on the host machine by finding the names of the user accounts on the machine and trying commonly used passwords. If the worm is successful in one of the passwords, it inserts itself on the hard drive and in the Autorun programs. It also shuts off Windows Update service and Windows Defender to prevent the worm from being discovered. Finally, the Conficker worm can be spread through the use of thumb drives and may prevent an infected computer from downloading virus definition updates. (Sanico, 2008)
Second on this list, the Win32/Frethog.gen!H is one strain in a family of trojan horses making its way around the Internet. This virus is used to steal game-related information from Massive Multiplayer Online Games accounts such as World of Warcraft. The virus installs COMPUTER VIRUSES 4
itself, changes security settings on the machine to avoid detection and then sends any passwords and game-related data to a remote server. This virus exhibits no obvious symptoms on an affected computer. (McCormack, 2009)
Who Writes Computer Viruses?
Unfortunately, there is no one stereotype for people that write computer viruses that fits better than another. Some are bright teens and young adults who have learned how to manipulate computer code and wish to prove themselves. Others are individuals seeking a thrill by unleashing a rather destructive virus and watching it cripple other computers. Lastly, a growing number of virus creators are pairing with hackers and spammers to create bugs that make identity theft easier. These authors and hackers have found a means of making money through the viruses. (Twist, 2003)
Legal ramifications for those who write computer viruses have been relatively lax. Most programmers convicted pay a fine and/or serve time in prison or doing community service. The current maximum sentence is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine in addition to any restitution for damages the virus caused. (Computer Programmer Convicted of Unleashing Virus, Attacking Media Outlets, 2010)
What Software Can Keep a Computer Virus-Free?
There are numerous anti-virus programs available, both for free and for purchase, depending on what the user wants. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-virus program that works well on any Windows-based system. The user-interface is as intuitive as any other Windows program and it downloads updates with all other Windows software. These features make it extremely easy to use. In addition, Malwarebytes offers a free anti-malware program
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that works well to rid a computer of spyware. Malwarebytes currently also offers anti-virus definitions, allowing for redundant scanning of a computer.
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