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Viruses And Worms

Dean Nicholas - Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What are Viruses & Worms?

Do you ever wonder why your computer or smartphone freezes so often or moves slowly? Do you get frustrated when programs take long to load?

If these questions came into your mind, then consider that your computer or smartphone might possibly have a virus or worm.

What is a Virus?

A virus is a computer program that spreads from one computer to another, leaving infection as it travels. Once a computer has a virus it can do many nasty things like erase data, damage your hardware or software and interrupt your computer’s operating system, if left untreated.

Viruses are most often spread via emails. This can occur if someone forwards you an infected document or if you use a USB drive with an infection and connect it to your computer or smartphone.

What is a Worm?

A worm is like a virus but does not need any help from a person to spread. It is spread from computer to computer via networks. Worms are designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system’s security and allow malicious users to control your computer. This is why it is very important to download and install operating system patches and upgrades.

Types of Viruses

The major types of viruses are Boot Sector Virus, Browser Hijacker, Direct Action Virus, File Infector Virus, Macro Virus, Multipartite Virus, Polymorphic Virus, Resident Virus and Web Scripting Virus.

  • Boot Sector
  • The term "boot sector" refers to the first sector on a computer hard drive. It holds the information that allows the computer to start up into the operating system.

    Boot sector viruses became popular because of the use of floppy disks to boot a computer. The widespread usage of the Internet and the death of the floppy have made other means of virus transmission more effective.

  • Browser Hijacker
  • This type of virus can spread itself in numerous ways, including voluntary download. They hijack certain browser functions, usually in the form of re-directing the user automatically to particular sites. If you find that your homepage is not the usual website then your browser has more than likely been hijacked.

    There are a lot of such viruses, and they usually have “search” included somewhere in their description. CoolWebSearch may be the most well-known example, but others are nearly as common. Stay away from sites that contain unreasonable amounts of pop-ups and use a browser that has good security built in to alleviate the chances of getting hijacked.

  • Direct Action Virus
  • This type of virus, unlike most, only affects a computer when the file containing the virus is opened. The virus action begins and then the virus essentially becomes dormant – it takes no other action unless an infected file is opened again. Usually this type is designed to automatically run multiple files in the background while the computer is running.

    The Vienna virus, which briefly threatened computers in 1988, is one such example of a direct action virus.

  • File Infector Virus
  • Perhaps the most common type of virus, the file infector, takes root in a single file and then begins its operation when the file is opened. The virus may replace parts of the file, take over the entire file or may not replace anything but instead re-write the file so that the virus is run rather than the program the user intended.

  • Macro Virus
  • A wide variety of programs, including productivity applications like Microsoft Excel, provide support for Macros (special actions programmed into the document using a specific programming language). Unfortunately, viruses can be easily hidden in these macros and can run unbeknown to a user.

    The most well-known macro virus is probably Melissa, a Word document supposedly containing the passwords to pornographic websites. The virus also exploited Word’s link to Microsoft Outlook in order to automatically email copies of itself.

  • Multipartite Virus
  • While some viruses are happy to spread via one method or deliver a single payload, Multipartite viruses want it all. A virus of this type may spread in multiple ways. An infected computer can be infected depending on the operating system installed or the existence of certain files.

  • Polymorphic Virus
  • Another jack-of-all-trades is the Polymorphic virus that actually mutates over time or after every time it is run. It changes the program code to deliver its payload. It can morph itself to combat virus protection methods. The goal of this trickery is an evasion since antivirus programs often find viruses by a specific program code.

Tips to Fight Viruses or Worms

  • Ensure that your operating system is always up-to-date. This is very important to users who are running a Microsoft Windows Operating System. Also ensure that you have anti-virus software installed on your computer or smartphone and download updates frequently to ensure that your software has the latest fixes for new viruses or worms. Your anti-virus program should have the capability of scanning emails and files that are downloaded from the internet. Disk scans should be done periodically to help prevent malicious programs from reaching your computer.

  • It is good to use a firewall on your computer or smartphone. This will help prevent unauthorized users from accessing it.

  • Stay abreast of the current virus news by checking sites like McAfee Labs Threat Center.

  • Avoid sites with popups, or at least, activate your browser’s popup blocker.

  • Finally, do not download unknown files or programs.

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