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Essay/Term paper: Computer virus

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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"Traces of the Stealth_c Virus have been found in memory. Reboot to a
clean system disk before continuing with this installation…" This was the
message staring back at me from one of the computer monitors at my office.
Questions raced through my mind. "Stealth_c?" "What"s a system disk?" "How
am I supposed to install anti-virus software if the computer system
already has a virus?" As a discouraging feeling of helplessness came over
me, I thought of all the people who had loaded something from disk on this
box or who had used this box to access the Internet. Because there was no
virus protection in the first place, it was going to be very difficult to
determine how many floppy disks and hard drives had been infected. I
wished I had learned about computer viruses a long time ago. What is a
computer virus, anyway? Is it a computer with a cold? A computer "virus"
is called a virus because of three distinct similarities to a biological
virus. They are: ? They must have the ability to make copies of, or
replicate, itself. ? They must have a need for a "host," or functional
program to which it can attach. ? The virus must do some kind of harm to
the computer system or at least cause some kind of unexpected or unwanted
behavior. Sometimes computer viruses just eat up memory or display
annoying messages, but the more dangerous ones can destroy data, give
false information, or completely freeze up a computer. The Stealth_c virus
is a boot sector virus, meaning that it resides in the boot sectors of a
computer disk and loads into memory with the normal boot-up programs. The
"stealth" in the name comes from the capability of this virus to possibly
hide from anti-virus software. Virtually any media that can carry
computer data can carry a virus. Computer viruses are usually spread by
data diskettes, but can be downloaded from the Internet, private bulletin
boards, or over a local area network. This makes it extremely easy for a
virus to spread once it has infected a system. The aforementioned
Stealth_c virus was transported by the least likely avenue; it was
packaged with commercial software. This is an extremely rare occurrence,
as most software companies go to great lengths to provide "clean"
software. There is a huge commercial interest in keeping computers
virus-free. Companies stand to lose literally thousands of dollars if they
lose computer data to a virus. An immense amount of time can be lost from
more productive endeavors if someone has to check or clean each computer
and floppy diskette of the virus because, no matter what, it will continue
to replicate itself until it uses every bit of memory available. To
service this market, companies sell anti- virus software, which scans
programs, searching for viruses. If one is found, a user can "kill" it by
cleaning the file, delete the file itself, move the file to a disk, or
ignore it. Ignoring a possible virus is an option provided because some of
the newer software utilizes heuristic algorithms to detect possible
viruses. This method of detection is highly effective but, because of the
sensitivity of the programs, false hits can occur. It is also very
important to keep your anti-virus software current. By some estimates,
forty to one hundred new virus programs are written every week by less
than ethical programmers. Most software companies put out new "vaccines"
every month. It is like an ongoing battle, the bad guys write a new virus
or even a new "species" of virus, the good guys get a copy from some poor
soul whose computer has been infected, and they write a vaccine. Some of
the more paranoid, or perhaps astute, have theorized that the companies
writing anti- virus software and the programmers writing viruses are one
in the same. However, the author of a computer virus means nothing to one
whose machine has lost data or has crashed due to infection. Detecting and
deleting the virus becomes the immediate action needed. This is impossible
without anti-virus software, and would be much simpler if the software is
already installed on a system. So, keep your computers "vaccinated,"
because, it is contagious.

Brown 3

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