What is a computer virus and how do you get one?
If you depend on the information stored on your personal computer, you need to understand how computer viruses spread, and you should use anti-virus software to reduce the chance that a computer virus will infect your programs and files.
A computer virus is a program that makes copies of itself and infects files. Computer viruses can spread to other computers and files whenever infected files are exchanged. Often infected files come as email attachments, even from people you know. The email senders have no idea that they are passing on a file with a virus in it.
Some computer viruses can erase or change the information stored on your computer, other viruses may do little or no harm to your system. Writing and releasing any virus is prohibited by university policy, and anyone who does so will be held legally accountable for damages.
How to protect your computer?
There are several things that you should do to protect your computer from virus infections:
- Use a high-quality anti-virus program, and be sure to update it regularly. Use it to scan any files, programs, software, or diskettes (even new software from a commercial company) before you use them on your computer.
- Make back-up copies of important documents or files and store them on separate diskettes. Making backups will also protect your information against accidental file deletion, diskette failure, and other damage.
- Whenever you use a computer in a campus lab, be sure to reboot or run “cleanup” before you start your session and log out when you end your session.
- Do not share commerical software with anyone. It is a violation of the author’s copyright to distribute such material, and it is a way to spread viruses.
- When you get public domain (PD) software for which the author has granted permission to make copies, get it from a reliable source. (For example, and individual you do not know is not a reliable source.) Before you run PD material, use an anit-virus program to inspect for known viruses.
- Always scan your disks and files after using them on another computer.
- Always scan all files you download from the Internet.
- Always scan Word or Excel file email attachments before you read them.
What if your computer gets a virus?
Not all damage to your programs and files is caused by viruses: worn out floppies, failing hard drives, user error, and poorly written programs can all cause you to lose data. If your computer is behaving strangely, or if you think your computer has a virus, use an anti-virus program to find out.
If your computer is infected with a virus, DON’T PANIC! Use an anti-virus program to remove the virus yourself, or turn your computer off and find someone who knows how to remove the virus.
If a virus is active in memory, it may prevent anti-virus programs from working correctly. To be sure no virus is active, turn off your computer and reboot from a known-clean system diskette before you begin the disinfection process.
Eliminate all copies of the virus as quickly as possible. Check all your diskettes, and warn anyone else who may have infected files or disks.
Remember, most viruses can be removed without permanent damage to your system, and most virus infections can be prevented. With proper care, your computer can remain virus-free.