This is not meant to be an exhaustive look at viruses. It
is just some questions that people might ask with answers
Q. What is a virus?
A. Basically a virus is a small program that runs on your
systems that can cause damage. It is usually hidden in other
programs on your computer so when you go to run your program,
the virus is then started. Viruses don't always cause damage.
Sometimes they will display annoying messages taunting you
with vulgar words or maybe they will display a political message
that the virus writer wants everyone to know about.
Q. How do I get a virus?
A. Just as with humans, viruses are "contagious"
and you can't get one if you keep your computer isolated.
If you share disks with a lot of people or you download a
lot of things from the Internet, then you are at risk. Most
people who have viruses don't realize it, so they will send
you a file and not notice that it has a virus. When you open
the file that your friend sent you your system then has that
virus. It can happen to anyone and getting a virus doesn't
mean that someone sent it to you on purpose.
Q. What types of files can be infected by a virus?
A. As of right now, a virus can affect any file that actually
does something. EXE and COM files are programs, and they can
be infected because they do something. Data files that have
macros in them can be infected because the macros do something.
Basically, anything that is pure text data cannot be infected.
Q. Can I get a virus from software I bought at the store?
A. Although this is highly unlikely, it is still possible.
The same goes for respected web sites such as shareware.com
or download.com and others. Even though these are respected
companies, accidents do happen and it is possible that viruses
can unsuspectingly get into their programs.
Q. How do I protect myself?
A. The best way to protect yourself is to not share files
with anyone. Of course this isn't very realistic though and
so the next best thing is to get an anti-virus program. These
programs run all of the time and can check your system for
viruses. When you go on-line they can also check the files
that you try to download. Both Symantec and Network Associates
produce good products.
Q. OK. I bought Norton Anti-Virus. Does this mean I can't
get a virus now?
A. No, you can still get a virus. New viruses are created
everyday. It is possible that you will run across a new virus.
Also, each anti-virus program comes with virus definitions.
It is a list of known viruses. Generally, an anti-virus program
cannot detect a virus it doesn't recognize. These virus lists
are updated often by the manufacturer and it is important
to update it just as often. Most anti-virus programs come
with at least a year of free virus definition updates.
Q. My computer is acting funny. I have a virus, right?
A. Probably not. Viruses can make your system do strange things,
but if your are having your system freeze often or it crashes,
the chances are it is a hardware or software problem, not
Q. What types of media can a virus infect?
A. A virus can infect any media that you can write to. Your
floppy disks, your hard disks, and your removable disks (like
from Zip drive) can all have infected files on them because
you can save files to them. A clean CD-ROM cannot become infected
with a virus because it is read-only. If you have a CD-W or
CD-RW then it would be possible for you to accidentally copy
a virus to the CD.
These are just a few simple answers to some simple questions.
It is important to remember that you are responsible for your
own computer and you can't blame anyone else if you get a
virus. Be responsible by getting a virus checker and updating
the definitions often.