Security Awareness

Virus FAQ

Virus

 

Virus

Is it possible to get a computer virus from a Web site?

Yes. If you download files from a site, the file can contain a virus and if you open the file, your computer could become infected. To protect yourself, download only from known web sites, and run a virus scanner on the files you download. For extra protection, you can download onto a disk separate from your hard drive (such as a floppy disk or a Zip disk). When in doubt, don't download the file.

Date Revised : 2003-07-17

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What does antivirus software do?

There are a variety of antivirus software packages that operate in many different ways, depending on how the vendor chose to implement their software. What they have in common, though, is that they all look for patterns in the files or memory of your computer that indicate the possible presence of a known virus. Antivirus packages know what to look for through the use of virus profiles (sometimes called "signatures") provided by the vendor. New viruses are discovered daily. The effectiveness of antivirus software is dependent on having the latest virus profiles installed on your computer so that it can look for recently discovered viruses and on having you run the software routinely.

Date Revised : 2003-06-05

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Can I use my University computer or a personal computer connected to the University network to research viruses or trojan horses?

Intentionally writing, producing, generating, copying, propagating or attempting to introduce any computer code designed to self-replicate, damage, or otherwise hinder the performance of any computer's memory, file system, or software (Such software is often referred to as a virus, worm, Trojan Horse, or some similar name) unless such action is part of authorized research or testing. You should contact your system administrator to get the authorization needed to perform such research.

Policy Referenced : Responsible/Acceptable use of Computing and Data Resources (PDF)

Date Revised : 2006-03-28

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I received an email from someone I don't know. What should I do to make sure my system does not get infected by an virus?

Before opening any attachments, be sure you know the source of the attachment. Opening email attachments from unknown sources could result in your computer being infected with a computer virus. It is not enough that the mail originated from an address you recognize. The Melissa virus spread precisely because it originated from a familiar address. Also, malicious code might be distributed in amusing or enticing programs such as one called the Budweiser frog. Never run a program unless you know it to be authored by a person or organization that you trust. Also, don't send programs of unknown origin to your friends or coworkers simply because they are amusing -- they might contain a virus or Trojan horse program.

Policy Referenced : Responsible/Acceptable use of Computing and Data Resources (PDF)

Date Revised : 2006-03-28

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What is a computer virus?

Computer viruses are a type of malicious code can spread from many sources including as attachments to email messages; files from a LAN server or downloaded from Internet sites/newsgroups; floppy or cd-rom disks (even from shrink-wrapped software), and even word processing and spreadsheet documents. It is important to have virus scanning software installed on your work and home computers so that viruses can be detected and removed. Check with your campus IT or desktop support group to determine if your campus uses a standard virus checking software that can be installed on your University computer. For home installations, two good products are: .

  • McAfee VirusScan 
  • Norton AntiVirus

To learn more watch the video Defend Your PC Against Worms and Viruses at http://onguardonline.gov/index.html.

Policy Referenced : Responsible/Acceptable use of Computing and Data Resources (PDF)

Date Revised : 2006-03-28

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What are the different types of computer viruses?

There are thousands of different viruses however, they all fall into one of the three major groups of computer viruses, each spread in a different way:

  • Macro - This type of viruses can easily spread through E-mail, when users unknowingly exchange infected documents. They are in fact programs written in macro-languages, built into some data-processing systems (text editor, electronic spreadsheet, etc.). To spread, such viruses use the capabilities of macro-languages and with their help; transfer themselves from one infected file to another. Macro-viruses for Microsoft Word, Excel and Office 97 are the most common. There also exist macro-viruses infecting Ami Pro documents and Microsoft Access databases. These viruses are spread by sharing document files from MS-Word (version 6.0 and above) or MS-Excel (version 5.0 and above).  Macro viruses are a frequent cause of virus infections, and they can infect both PCs and Macintosh computers. After your computer is infected with a macro virus, any document you create or open using infected software type (e.g., Word, Excel, etc.) may also contain the virus.
  • Boot Sector - These viruses are spread by sharing diskettes between different computers. Any diskette can spread a boot sector virus --even if it is not a bootable system diskette. If you share files by sharing diskettes, you can spread a boot sector virus to other computers, which then can infect other diskettes.
  • Program - These viruses are spread by sharing program files. Because most users share programs less frequently than they share data or document files, this type of virus is less common than others. A program virus can infect other programs and damage data files on your computer.

"Email" or "Hoax" are not really virus programs at all. They are email messages sent by well-meaning people to warn others about a new virus they read of. These false warning messages usually say "be sure to send this to everyone you know" and warn of major damage to your computer or files. Hoax virus warnings can cause huge amounts of Internet traffic and unnecessary worry to others.

Please check with someone knowledgeable about computer viruses before you forward such a message. Remember: A virus can not appear on your computer all by itself. You have to get it by sharing infected files or diskettes, or by downloading infected files from the Internet. A write-protected diskette can not become infected with a virus.

Policy Referenced : Responsible/Acceptable use of Computing and Data Resources (PDF)

Date Revised : 2006-03-28

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