Virus Protection

What Is A Computer Virus?

A computer virus is a small program written to alter the way a computer operates, without the permission or knowledge of the user. There are two major categories of PC viruses, program and boot sector. A program virus infects programs and program files, while a boot sector virus infects the boot sector of a hard drive and floppy disk. Once the virus is in place, usually in memory where it can have access to programs that are running, it has two jobs, activation of ‘payload’ and propagation. The activation of the virus’s ‘payload’ depends on a triggering event. For example, a virus could be set to reformat the hard drive (payload) on every Friday the 13th (activation). A virus propagates by replicating itself on to other programs and boot sectors. For example, PC ‘A’ with a boot sector virus will replicate itself on to floppy disk ‘A’ that is accessed by the PC’s operating system. Later, the infected floppy disk is then accessed by the operating system of PC ‘B’ and the virus replicates itself again.

What is a hoax?

Hoaxes are not viruses but they act in a similar way and cause chaos never the less. A hoax is a chain email ‘X’ informing a user to be careful of email ‘Y’ that claims to be a PC destroying virus when you read it and to send email ‘X’ to everyone the user knows. The hoax is that a virus can not attach itself to an email text file because it is not a program file. The average PC user, however, does not know this and becomes worried that they will receive email ‘Y,’ activation, and sends it to all of their friends, propagation. The best example of a hoax is the 1994 ‘Good Times’ email which warned users not to download or read any email titled ‘Good Times’ because it would instantly erase the user’s hard drive. This, of course, was not true, yet it caused a lot of hysteria which in turn caused increased network traffic. A virus can, however, be hidden in an attachment to an email note, but only when the attachment is executed. If you receive an attachment from some one you trust, then execute it at your discretion. If you receive an attachment from someone you do not know, especially if you are part of a mass mailing, do not execute it. Forward the email to Desktop Support and then delete the attachment. You can also call the Support Center at 432-4357 if you suspect a virus may be on your PC.

How Can I Protect My Pc From Viruses?

Anti-virus software is meant to seek out and destroy viruses that reside on PCs and floppy disks. At the School of Public Health we have a site license for McAfee Anti-Virus Software. This license allows employees of the school to install McAfee’s Anti-Virus protection on their work computers and their home computers. If you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, or Windows 2000, you can download McAfee’s Anti-Virus software for your PC from our Website. If you do not have internet access please call Desktop Support at 432-4357 and instructions will be given on how to have it installed on your PC. McAfee Virus Scan will provide your PC with the protection it needs to defend itself against viruses.

Where Can I Get More Information On Viruses And Anti-Virus Protection?

The following links will provide you with plenty of useful information, as well as links to more information.

McAfee (HSPH Standard) Very strong protection against viruses and contains very good information on viruses.
Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team (AVERT) AVERT is a division of Network Associates, Inc. (NAI). They research new viruses and were first to find the “Melissa” virus. This site contains the latest virus and hoax alerts; an extensive knowledge base; and updates for Dr. Solomon’s Anti-Virus Software.
Virus Bulletin Home Page A wealth of information on past and present viruses can be found here.
Myths home page This site has excellent information on new and old hoax viruses.
ICSA Anti-virus products listed here are certified by the ICSA , which has links to other Anti-Virus sites not mentioned on this page.