A not-so-typical computer virus article | SummitDaily.com

A not-so-typical computer virus article

eRin pheiL

We’ve all seen the articles on the latest computer viruses. We’re warned to download patches from Microsoft, install anti-virus software, and remain cautious upon receiving suspicious emails.

And that’s all fine-those steps are necessary in keeping your computer happy and chipper.

Here’s my question to you, though: what IS a computer virus? If you can correctly answer this question without hesitation, you needn’t read the rest of the article today-plus, you get 3 extra credit points. For the rest of you . . . let’s just say you’re in luck because I’m in a good mood today. I’ve decided to go ahead and just give you the answer.

Hem-hem. Listen up.

Computer viruses are little programs that enthusiastically reproduce themselves inside the larger programs and operating system on your computer.

Computer viruses are NOT spontaneously created inside computers. They don’t just “appear” inside one computer because of a problem or defect. Computer viruses are written by clever people who obviously do not live in Summit County. I mean, think about it-if they lived in Summit County, they’d be so busy hiking, biking, skateboarding, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, climbing, running, riding horses, etc. that there’s no way they’d have enough time to sit down and create awful viruses. Right?

Usually, viruses are written by evil masterminds in such a manner that they alter your computer’s programs or operating system without your knowing. Ugh, the deceit. And when I say “alter,” I really mean: “affect your computer in a malicious way-such as posting a really rude message to your screen or destroying all the important information you’ve collected over the years.”

“I think I get the gist of it now,” you say. “BUT! How come I still have viruses on my computer even though I’ve installed anti-virus software?”

I’ll keep the answer non-technical. My favorite simplified answer to this question comes from an explanation offered by the University of Nebraska’s Computer Emergency Response Team.

It goes a little something like this: “By way of analogy, many computer viruses are built so that they know a few “stealth techniques.’ These techniques may boil down to something along the lines of donning a false mustache, hiding in the rocks, and saying “Oh, he went thataway!” when the posse (i.e., your Anti-Virus software) shows up.”

This is the part of the article where I could go into detail about different sleazy viruses that are out there, or throw in some technical jargon that I just looked up in the online dictionary to make myself appear smart. But that’s not going to happen.

I just want to leave you with one last piece of important information. Never ever ever ever ever forward emails that discuss “the latest virus” and also contain the phrase “pass this information on to everyone you know.” I don’t care if the email says that “Microsoft and AOL just verified this.” (I mean, look how easily I just typed that phrase! Anyone can do it.) People who spread viruses and hoaxes via emails want them to spread as quickly as possible; thus, they try to instill fear and worry into computer-users like you and me.

My piece of advice, then, whenever you receive emails (even if they’re from friends) containing both information about a new virus and those magic words, “pass this information on to everyone you know,” do yourself and everyone else a HUGE favor: delete the email.

Other, more reliable methods of staying up-to-date on the latest viruses exist. Try http://www.symantec.com/

avcenter/vinfodb.html for starters.

I hope you learned something new today. At the very least, I hope I was able to demystify the murky topic of computer viruses for you.

Based in Frisco, eRin pheiL

is the primary creative force behind timeforcake

(www.timeforcake. com).

She can be reached via phone at (970) 668-0709 or e-mail at


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