Where can I get help?
A quick place to start is to go to
Symantec Security Response. This section of the Symantec website has
current information on security threats to your networks and computers.
Check out the
Threat Explorer list. Threat Explorer is a comprehensive resource
for daily, accurate and up-to-date information on the latest threats,
risks and vulnerabilities.
Call Vision Quest! Vision Quest can provide
a broad range of tools and service to repair, backup, and secure your
networks and computers. Call (714) 573-4932.
What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is a program designed to
spread itself by first infecting executable files or the system areas of
hard and floppy disks and then making copies of itself. Viruses usually
operate without the knowledge or desire of the computer user.
What kind of files can spread viruses?
Viruses have the potential to infect
executable code, not just program files. Some viruses infect executable
code in the boot sector of floppy disks or in system areas of hard
drives. Another type of virus, known as a 'macro' virus, can infect word
processing and spreadsheet documents that use macros. And it's possible
spread viruses or malicious code.
Since virus code must be executed to have
any effect, files that the computer treats as pure data are safe. This
includes graphics and sound files such as .gif, .jpg, .mp3, .wav, etc.,
as well as plain text in .txt files. For example, just viewing picture
files won't infect your computer with a virus. The virus code has to be
in a form of an .exe program file or a Word .doc file, that the computer
will actually try to execute.
When you execute infected program code, the
virus code will run and attempt to infect other programs, either on the
same computer or on other computers connected over a network . The newly
infected programs will then try to infect yet more programs, and the
pattern repeats itself.
When you share a copy of an infected file
with other computer users, running the file may also infect their
computers; and files from those computers may spread the infection to
yet more computers.
If your computer is infected with a boot
sector virus, the virus tries to write copies of itself to the system
areas of floppy disks and hard disks. Then the infected floppy disks may
infect other computers that boot from them, and the virus copy on the
hard disk will try to infect still more
Some viruses, known as 'multipartite'
viruses, can spread both by infecting files and by infecting the boot
areas of floppy disks.
viruses do to computers?
Viruses are software programs, and they can
do the same things as any other programs running on a computer. The
actual effect of any particular virus depends on how it was programmed
by the person who wrote the virus.
Some viruses are deliberately designed to
damage files or otherwise interfere with your computer's operation,
while others don't do anything but try to spread themselves around. But
even the ones that just spread themselves are harmful, since they damage
files and may cause other problems in the process of spreading. Note
that viruses can't do any damage to hardware: Warnings about viruses
that will physically destroy your computer are usually hoaxes, not
legitimate virus warnings.
What is a
Trojan horse program?
A type of program that is often confused
with viruses is a 'Trojan horse' program. This is not a virus, but
simply a program (often harmful) that pretends to be something else. For
example, you might download what you think is a new game; but when you
run it, it deletes files on your hard drive. Or the third time you start
the game, the program E-mails your saved passwords to another person.
Note: simply downloading a file to your computer won't activate a virus
or Trojan horse; you have to execute the code in the file to trigger it.
This could mean running a program file, or opening a Word/Excel document
in a program (such as Word or Excel) that can execute any macros in the
What about viruses in E-mail?
You can't get a virus just by reading a
plain-text E-mail message or Usenet post. What you have to watch out for
are encoded messages containing embedded executable code (i.e.,
file attachment (i.e., an encoded program file or a Word document
containing macros). In order to activate a virus or Trojan horse
program, your computer has to execute some type of code. This could be a
program attached to an E-mail, a Word document you downloaded from the
Internet, or something received on a floppy disk. There's no special
hazard in files attached to Usenet posts or E-mail messages: they're no
more dangerous than any other file.
What can I
do to reduce the chance of getting viruses from E-mail?
Treat any file attachments that might
contain executable code as carefully as you would any other new files:
save the attachment to disk and then check it with an up-to-date virus
scanner before opening the file. If your E-mail or news software has the
executable code contained in or attached to a message, we strongly
recommend that you disable this feature. If an executable file shows up
unexpectedly attached to an E-mail, you should delete it unless you can
positively verify what it is, who it came from, and why it was sent to
The outbreak of the Melissa virus was a
vivid demonstration of the need to be extremely careful when you receive
E-mail with attached files or documents. Just because an E-mail appears
to come from someone you trust, this does NOT mean the file is safe or
that the supposed sender had anything to do with it.
general tips on avoiding virus infections:
Install anti-virus software from a
well-known, reputable company. Update it regularly, and use it
regularly. New viruses come out every single day; an a-v program that
hasn't been updated for several months will not provide much protection
against current viruses.
In addition to scanning for viruses on a
regular basis, install an 'on access' scanner (included in most good a-v
software packages) and configure it to start automatically each time you
boot your system. This will protect your system by checking for viruses
each time your computer accesses an executable file.
Virus scan any new programs or other files
that may contain executable code before you run or open them, no matter
where they come from. There have been cases of commercially distributed
floppy disks and CD-ROMs spreading virus infections.
Anti-virus programs aren't very good at
detecting Trojan horse programs, so be extremely careful about opening
binary files and Word/Excel documents from unknown or 'dubious' sources.
This includes posts in binary newsgroups, downloads from web/ftp sites
that aren't well-known or don't have a good reputation, and executable
files unexpectedly received as attachments to E-mail or during an
on-line chat session.
If your E-mail or news software has the
executable code contained in or attached to a message, I strongly
recommend that you disable this feature.
Be extremely careful about accepting
programs or other files during on-line chat sessions: this seems to be
one of the more common means that people wind up with virus or Trojan
horse problems. And if any other family members (especially younger
ones) use the computer, make sure they know not to accept any files
while using chat.
Do regular backups. Some viruses and Trojan
horse programs will erase or corrupt files on your hard drive, and a
recent backup may be the only way to recover your data.
Ideally, you should back up your entire
system on a regular basis. If this isn't practical, at least backup
files that you can't afford to lose or that would be difficult to
replace: documents, bookmark files, address books, important E-mail,
with virus infections:
Just because your computer is acting
strangely or one of your programs doesn't work right, this does NOT mean
that your computer has a virus. Drastic measures such as formatting your
hard drive or using FDISK should be avoided. They are frequently useless
at cleaning a virus infection, and may do more harm than good unless
you're very knowledgeable about the effects of the particular virus
you're dealing with.
If you haven't used a good, up-to-date
anti-virus program on your computer, do that first. Many problems blamed
on viruses are actually caused by software configuration errors or other
problems that have nothing to do with a virus.
If you do get infected by a virus, follow
the directions in your anti-virus program for cleaning it. If you have
backup copies of the infected files, use those to restore the files.
Check the files you restore to make sure your backups weren't infected.
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you; whether you found it here on our website, or you need a custom
solution, please contact a Vision Quest representative, toll-free, at