Understanding Virus Risks

By definition a virus replicates itself and is capable of causing harm to the computer, or files and programs. Occasionally a data recovery software system is needed to retrieve any lost data. A virus can be as simple as a disruption of service or a program that causes an Internet connection to fail -- or as complicated as a spyware program designed to send personal information back to its creator. Viruses can attach themselves to virtually any file type used by any computer such as exe, doc, txt, ddl, inf, iso, and so many more. Most commonly the viruses attack the boot sector of the hard drive and the boot information. This allows the virus to replicate itself upon the booting of the computer and makes it more difficult to remove.

Computer viruses can be spread in one of three ways; email attachments, files downloaded, and from removable media. It should be noted that an individual is no more likely to get a virus form the Internet than they are from a piece of software or media file. Viruses cannot be spread in a plain text email and must be part of an attachment to be effective. Even then most attachments need to be opened in order for the virus to be released. Although not technically viruses, worms and trojans are constant threats as well. Instead of replicating themselves into another file or program they hide and wait for a trigger then attack and steal info or relay user preferences for the web and frequently visited sites for browser hijacking.

The first computer viruses were seen on the IBM 367/370 and Univac 1108 computers in the 1980s but the exact date of the first virus is up for debate. These viruses created havoc on early users by dropping letters from displays and changing saved files and documents at random. Literally dozens and even hundreds of viruses started to pop up disabling speakers, hard drives, and system files. The Brain virus marked the introduction of the virus to the boot sector and the start of antidotes and anti-virus software. At first these were virus specific; a sort of antibody for a specific infection. Soon, companies developed full blown anti-virus programs with the ability to clean multiple viruses in one software package.

Viruses present risks of losing personal information to identity theft, a redirection of the user's browser, the ability for the virus' author to place ads and links on a page the user uses most often, and a complete destruction of a computer or server. These could be very small hindrances to complete failures of security and hardware; some of the most damaging viruses are those that infect the boot sector and registry files of the computer which contain passwords and configuration settings for the computer. Virus protection comes in many forms today and most commonly used are anti-virus programs. These programs use a list of known viruses to check against as well as the ability, in some cases, to monitor for new threats based upon the architecture of the detected program or file. Spyware and malware protection are more specific and specialized anti-virus programs designed to seek out programs that steal or watch your information.

Current virus threats change constantly and should be sought out on a regular basis. The anti-virus program being used will have updates but external sites and notifications should be used to prevent or find an attack if it is occurring. A few of the more recent threats include WORM SOHANAD.JH, TROJ DROPPER.EAA, and TROJ DLOADR.ACI. Most of the common viruses come in the trojan and worm designations due to their ability to retrieve information. Recovery from virus attacks mean periodically backing up files, running scans, and removing viruses that are found. Using an email protection program is also recommended so recovery is as simple as restoring the backup files to the computer that has been infected. Take note of the virus prior to using the backup files to prevent the attack from happening again.