Lesson #9 - The Truth
About 4 times a day I get questions regarding what is going wrong
with a computer system. 2 of those questions ask how to get rid of a virus where
there is no proof a virus is at fault. The other 2 generally don't even ask about a
virus, and assume it is a hardware/software problem. Today we're going to look at
how viruses affect your system, and how to tell if one is to blame.
Viruses And Your Computer
Generally there are about 4 different affects a virus can have on
your system The most obvious is the e-mail script, where an e-mail virus replicates
itself by sending itself through your e-mail address list. The second symptom is
sudden file name change or data change. The third is the disappearance of
files. The last is the failure of your system to boot. Most viruses use a
combination of these affects in an escalating form.
- E-mail Scripts - This becomes obvious when your
friends e-mail you back telling you you sent them a virus.
- Name Change/Data Change - This shows itself when
Windows or other applications give you "Missing File" errors. Data files
will suddenly have changes, and applications will fail to load.
- File Deletions - This is normally seen by the
same "Missing File" errors, but often will cause Windows to fail to boot
- System Crashes - When a system crashes and
refuses to boot again, this is normally the sign of a virus. If you re-install the
operating system and the problem re-occurs, you probably have a boot sector virus.
Because these symptoms all work together, you'll normally see one
symptom quickly followed by the next in the list.
What Do Viruses Do?
The normal progression of a virus after infecting your system is
to replicate itself. This involves affecting more files on your system as well as
attempting to spread on to other systems. This is the e-mail script section, where
the virus will search through your address book and send itself to other computers.
If you get an e-mail from a friend asking why you sent a file that you don't remember
sending, you probably have a virus.
The second thing a virus does depends on it's intentions.
Some viruses are comical, such as the cookie monster virus. (Cookie monster appears
on the screen and won't go away until you type "Give Cookie Monster A
Cookie".) Others are more dangerous. (Chernobyl was designed to wipe a
hard drive clean.) Some are a pain in the butt. (A boot sector virus will stay
even if you re-install your operating system.)
How Do I Stop Viruses From Affecting My Computer?
This is simple. #1 Install a virus scanner
software. #2 Install a firewall. #3 Don't open e-mails with
attachments with the file extensions .com, .bat, .exe, .zip, or .js. Virus scanners
remove viruses after they are installed, and stop new ones from installing.
Firewalls stop people from remote IPs gaining access to your computer and installing a
Not opening those e-mail attachments is the #1 way to stop
viruses from spreading. Sure they have funny names and look cool, but they are only
there to harm your system and don't care that you didn't know it was a virus. Even
if you know the person sending the file, DON'T open it unless you asked for that file or
that person told you previously they were sending it. 95% of viruses on computers
today could be eliminated with this simple step.
What Do I Do If I'm Infected?
If you're infected, you better hope you caught a nice
If you can't get McAfee to clean your system, you can at least
get it to tell you what you have to do. The main reason I support McAfee is because
they have the best library of fixes for all the different viruses. So even if McAfee
can't solve your problem, it can at least tell you how to fix it yourself. You can
also purchase virus scanning software on that site.