back to my computer help page


New VIRUSes (like the HTML viruses)

ANTI-VIRUS = Virus Killers

Top Ten Virus Questions

check against my list of VIRUS HOAXES - note: there is no such thing as an EMAIL TEXT VIRUS

European Institute for Cmputer Anti-virus (will send you a test file)

Truth or Fiction - virus hoaxes/spams

Snopes2 - virus hoaxes/spams


Virus Descriptions

LIST of thousands of viruses

Henry Delger's Virus Help - email list and question section


MACintosh Virus Help

Shields Up (virus protection)

911 PC Help (with viruses too)

Top Ten Virus Questions

1. What is a Computer Virus? and a Virus Hoax

A computer virus is a small computer program that makes copies of itself on computer disks. Viruses may (directly or indirectly) (infect) (copy to and spread from), executable program files, or programs in disk sectors, and even some non-executable files which use macros. This parasitic nature that virus programs have is neither an accident, nor a computer glitch. In fact, all viruses are created by people who know how to write computer programs.

A virus hoax is a fake report of a virus usually emailed around so often that it clogs up email lines.

2. Why are they called Viruses?

Experimental self-replicating programs were first produced in the 1960s, confirming theories dating back to 1949. The term virus is more recent, and was first used in 1984 by Professor Fred Cohen to describe self-replicating programs. The earliest PC viruses came a bit later, in 1986-7. The name is appropriate, because like a biological virus, a computer virus is small, makes copies of itself, and cannot exist without a host. (It's also a catchier name than Parasitic Self-Replicating Program.)


3. Are all Viruses harmful?

All computer viruses at least take up disk space, and many of them are able to remain in the computer's memory, so as to take control over some computer functions. In addition, some viruses are poorly written, and may cause the computer to halt, or damage files. Many viruses make the computer's memory unstable, or cause programs to run improperly. Then there are viruses created in recent years that have been deliberately designed to destroy data on the disk.


4. What About Destructive Viruses?

The most feared viruses are those that deliberately damage or delete files, or even destroy all data on a disk. The vandals who produce these are concerned only about themselves, not innocent people who will be harmed. These vandals hope to impress their friends, and sometimes compete with them. Some join groups that create new viruses every day.


5. Who writes Viruses - and why?

Viruses can be written by anyone, anywhere in the world, who has enough programming skill. A few have been developed by researchers for demonstration purposes, and some others are jokes, written by pranksters. Other viruses are written by people learning programming, who think writing a virus is accomplishing something. In many cases, these viruses get passed around, and later are altered by other people.


6. What are Virus symptoms?

It's true that some viruses cause strange things to happen. These can include: slower operation, decreased memory, or a disk drive LED lighting up for no apparent reason. However, legitimate software can also cause these effects. And while some viruses are very obvious, displaying messages, or even playing musical tunes, many give no sign of their presence. So it's important not to assume your computer is infected, just because strange things happen.


7. How are Viruses spread?

While the risk is relatively small, it is growing daily. Viruses circulate from one computer to another, often via diskettes. If you're lucky, you'll never encounter a virus, but one could be concealed in the next file you download, or on the next diskette you receive. Diskettes borrowed from friends, school, or work are common sources, even shrink-wrapped diskettes purchased at stores, or through mail-order. Downloaded programs can be infected, and viruses can travel among networked PCs.


8. Should you get anti-virus software?

If you're concerned about the virus threat, the time to obtain anti-virus software is before you get a virus. It's much better to prevent a virus infection than to have to deal with one. If your system is virus-free, anti-virus software can help keep it that way, providing you keep the program updated, and check all newly-obtained software and disks before using them the first time.


9. How can you protect your data?

Viruses are a threat, but data loss can also occur from other factors. If you have files you can't afford to lose, make sure you have more than one copy of them. The best way to do that is to copy hard disk files to disk/tape, with a reliable backup utility program. You should create an Emergency Boot Disk, and keep it with your backup disks/tapes in a safe place, with write-protect tabs secured.


10. How can I create an Emergency Boot Disk?

To make an emergency bootable floppy disk, if using DOS, run the FORMAT A: /S command with a disk in A> drive which is the proper density for the drive. If using Windows or Win95, use the option to make a System Disk in File Manager or Explorer, as appropriate. I'd suggest you also COPY these commands to it, from C:\DOS or the Win95 system directory: ATTRIB, CHKDSK (or SCANDISK if you have it), FDISK, FORMAT, SYS, and BACKUP and RESTORE (or whatever backup program you use, if it will fit). They may come in handy if you can't access the hard disk, or it won't boot up.