A computer virus is a program file capable of reproducing its own special code and attaching that code to other files without the knowledge of the user. When the newly-amended program or file runs, the virus code runs, also, and searches out other files to which it can adhere. These other files may reside on a floppy disk or the computer hard drive; they may range from common word processor programs or spreadsheets to email address books.
Unlike the winter flu virus that most often infects a school through indirect contact, such as germs left on a drinking fountain or a coughing spell in a crowded locker room, computer viruses are the direct result of someone’s intentional creation. The virus is designed and tested to ensure the code causes the desired effect.
Once a virus is created and distributed, it may replicate itself and attach to a program file spreading to more files each time the program is executed. Subsequently, the newly infected files repeat this duplication process each time they are run.
On the other hand, the virus may enter the computer’s memory system and wait for a specific event within its operations to activate the infectious spread. This form is harder to identify due to a more irregular distribution pattern. It is not dormant, however; it captures a portion of the computer system’s function to disguise its existence.
In a technology-run world computer viruses cause a great deal of stress, if not expense. The damage may range from a silly email that needs deleting to an infectious file on an individual computer’s operating system. Far too often, the virus does extensive damage attaching itself to shared files and thus, spreading rapidly to other computer systems. Once the culprit is discovered, it may only require a simple anti-virus scan and clean process by the computer’s owner or it may necessitate a commercial clean up and the restoration of a large corporation’s total networking system.
The first prevention step for all computer users is to properly install commercial anti-virus software, preferably downloaded from a compact disc. Unlike floppy disks, CDs are not modifiable; the use of CD programs is a preventive technique.
Next, search the system application files. If possible, disable the system’s mechanism for booting from a floppy disk. One option in Microsoft applications enables users to set Macros Virus Protection; it is found in the tools section. Under the Internet tools/options/security/custom level section users should disable acceptance of files from unknown sources and be hesitant to open downloadable files with macros.Paper Masters