By: Darren Miller
Viruses & Anti-Virus Software
Many people have Anti-Virus software installed. Many of the
major Anti-Virus software company's now promote what they
call "Security Suites" or packages. These Security Suites
contain everything from Anti-Virus, Firewall Protection,
SPAM and Pop-Up blockers, and Ad-ware protection. Quite
often, once the software is installed people find out that
things they use to be able to do on the Internet are no
longer possible. So what happens is portions or all of the
software they purchased to protect their computer get
disabled. The result, an ineffective software program that
you paid good money for! Worst than that, most people have
no idea exactly how the Anti-Virus portion of the package
should be configured. Leaving it up to the default
configuration to defend their computers. Most of the manuals
that come with these software packages seem to be written
for those who understand the intricate workings of computers
along with every computer acronym ever invented!
Most everyone who owns a computer knows about viruses.
Years ago, viruses were more of an annoyance than anything.
But as time passed those who develop viruses became more
astute at their trade and started developing viruses with
It's amazing that we regularly find computers without any
anti-virus protection at all. Typically, those who do not,
find out rather quickly how important virus protection is.
In addition to the many computers we find without virus
protection, we find many computers do not have the
anti-virus software configured and running properly to
protect them from even the most basic type of infection.
What is a Virus?
A virus is a type of program that can execute on your
computer and has the ability to replicate itself. Computer
viruses, like biological viruses, spread quickly and in many
cases , are quite difficult to stop and destroy. They can
attach themselves to many types of files. As these files
are transferred between multiple computers each computer
along the away becomes infected and has the ability to
continue spreading the infection.
What is a Trojan?
A Trojan is software that can perform unauthorized tasks on
your computer. More often than not, these tasks are
malicious in nature. The biggest difference between a
trojan and a virus is that Viruses have the ability to
replicate whereas a Trojan typically does not. If your
computer becomes infected with a Trojan it can cause;
Damage to your computers software, Operating System, and
Your system can become unstable and exhibit unexpected
The security of your system becomes compromised;
It could lead to the unauthorized access of your computer;
Beware programs and software in pretty packages (for free
usually). Remember what happen to the Trojan's of Greek
What is Malware?
The word "Malware" is short for "Malicious Software". It
refers to any software or programs with malicious intent
such as viruses, Trojans, worms, droppers, and kits. Just
as a note, not all Malware should be considered a virus but
the majority can be considered as such.
What can a Virus do to me?
There are many malicious actions a virus, worm, or general
Malware can take. Just a few examples are;
Change or delete important data on your computer such as
documents, music and video files, and possibly destroy all
data on your computer;
Search for important information such as contact lists and
use this information to replicate itself by sending everyone
in your contact lists an e-mail with the virus/worm
Spread amongst all your computers in various methods such as
e-mail and file sharing;
Disguise itself as a legitimate part of the Operating System
- making it very difficult to detect and destroy;
and just about anything else malicious you can think up!
Virus Life Cycle
Creation - In the past it took significant skill to create a
virus. However, anyone with even basic skills can create a
virus. In fact, there are virus creation labs freely
available on the Internet. This can allow anyone to create
interesting and potentially malicious code;
Replication - If one of the main goals of the virus
developer is the replication or spread of the virus, many
viruses will lay dormant and wait for a certain event to
take place like a date something similar. This allows the
virus to replicate to many systems before it activates;
Activation - Once certain requirements or conditions are
met, the virus will activate itself and execute the code
that causes damage to your computer. Not all virus cause
damage. Non-damaging virus usually do not need activation;
Identification - Once the virus has infected computers and
activated themselves in the wild (on your computer), they
are isolated and documented and sent to the anti-virus
Recognition - The anti-virus companies then develop the code
necessary to detect the virus, update their virus signature
patterns, and make them available to their customers. This
process can be rather quick or can take days or months;
Destruction - If enough people are protected by anti-virus
software that can detect, isolate, and destroy the virus, it
can be stopped from spreading;
Based on current information and statistics no virus has yet
to be completely eradicated!
How do I Protect my Computer?
The most obvious thing that you can do is install anti-virus
software. In fact, this is not so much an option as it is
a requirement. That is if you want to be protected and not
A) lose everything you have on your computer, B) spread
viruses to your friends, family and associates, C) be a
productive part of the public network (Internet) community.
In addition, you need to make sure that your anti-virus
software is functioning properly;
Make sure that your anti-virus subscription is not out of
date. In some cases, if your subscription is out of date,
the product ceases to function or can no longer download new
virus patterns. Preventing it from detecting the latest
If you receive an unsolicited piece of e-mail do not open
it. Delete the e-mail right away;
Many e-mail clients have the ability to give you a preview
of the e-mail before actually opening it. If your e-mail
client is configured this way, turn it off. This can
actually allow the virus to activate the moment you
highlight the e-mail;
If you receive e-mail from a friend or associate that you
were not expecting, or one that has an odd subject line like
"Subject: The pictures I promised you!" or "The program you
requested", contact your fiend and ask them if they actually
Configure you anti-virus software to check for virus pattern
updates on a frequent basis. Checking once a week is
probably not good enough. At the very least, configure it
to check at least once a day. Our systems check more
frequently than that;
Make sure your anti-virus software is configured to perform
a scheduled scan of your computer. Many people rely on the
"real-time" scanning which is suppose to catch viruses in
real-time as you select and open files. This is not 100%
accurate and nothing substitutes for a thorough manual scan
of "all" your system files
Don't rely on anti-virus software alone. Make sure that you
are using some sort of anti ad-ware and spy-ware software.
These programs can catch a plethora of malicious software
that your anti-virus software may miss.
All it takes is one bad experience with a damaging virus to
make you realize how vulnerable you and your computers are.
Be diligent in your defense against Malware and your
computer / Internet experience will be more enjoyable. The
same goes for small and medium sized business. Those who
have been down for a day or days as the result of a virus
will know exactly what I am talking about.
You may reprint or publish this article free of charge as
long as the bylines are included.
Original URL (The Web version of the article):
About The Author
Darren Miller is an Information Security Consultant with
over sixteen years experience. He has written many
technology & security articles, some of which have been
published in nationally circulated magazines & periodicals.
If you would like to contact Darren you can e-mail him at
[email protected]. If you would like to know
more about computer security please
visit us at http://www.defendingthenet.com.
This article was posted on January 26, 2006
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