A Lesson in Computer Viruses and how to deal with them

PART 1 of 2

     Computer viruses are now a part of life, thanks mostly to the technological advances in our environment.  Large scale networks, such as the Internet, allow vast amounts of data to be exchanged; the perfect environment for a computer virus to spread.  Expensive software drives consumers to resort to shareware (low priced or free software available to the general public), allowing hackers to spread their virus creations easily.  Even respected software companies can have a virus hacker in their midsts, just waiting to decimate their reputation.

 Exactly what is a computer virus?

     Computer viruses were named on the basis that they multiplied like their biological namesakes.  In actuality a computer virus is simply a computer software program, designed to ‘copy’ itself whenever it is started.  The purpose of a virus can be almost anything its creator imagines.  Some examples include, creating a unique display on the screen, erasing data, encrypting data (allowing it to be unencrypted later by an anti-virus program), slowing the computer down, or even, nothing.  Some computer viruses are even designed to mutate; this in turn makes the virus less susceptible to being found and hence destroyed.

How do computer viruses multiply?

     Computer viruses multiply in a few different ways.  First and foremost, viruses duplicate simply by copying themselves to the computer’s memory or hard drive when the ‘infected’ program is started.  Next, when a removable USB drive is inserted into the computer’s USB port, the virus is then copied onto the USB drive.  Then, when the USB drive is inserted into another computer, and the ‘infected’ program started, it again copies itself into memory, or on the hard drive.  Thus, the whole procedure is started over.  The second most common scenario is when a virus infected program is retrieved from another computer using a network connection, as over the Internet for example.  The program is then used and passed on to fellow computer users, unaware of the fact that it is virus laden.  Other ways exist, that are much less common; therefore, less responsible for widespread virus contamination.

Why are viruses written?

     Many other reasons exist, but, most viruses are created primarily for the individual hacker’s enjoyment and fulfillment.  Some viruses are written just to create havoc.  Others are written as a quest for popularity.  Others are written as defense mechanisms against third worlds.  Still, others are written strictly as a marketing tool to make money; in conjunction with an anti-virus program.  Hundreds of other reasons also exist. These border on insanity and the quest for world power.   

Next Post, I will get into dealing with viruses.  Including, how to locate, eradicate, and avoid viruses.


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