Monthly Archives: September 2011

11 Ways Computer Viruses Are Spread

It is the worst nightmare of every computer user: you wake up one day and realize that you have a virus, and you don’t know quite how
to get rid of it. Most people these days understand what a virus is and how harmful it can be, but they are still somewhat unsure how computer viruses spread. The truth is that there are dozens of different ways in which a virus can spread from computer to computer, but let’s take a look at the most frequent ways in which people run into viruses, spyware and Trojans on the Internet.

1. Email attachments.
The world became familiar with the phenomena of email attachments carrying viruses thanks to Microsoft’s Outlook Express automatically opening every attachment to every email you received a few years back. Now that email clients no longer do this, the infection rate from email attachments is significantly lower, but it can still be a common problem. The golden rule is that if you don’t know what an attachment is, don’t open it. To this day, many email users never open attachments, no matter what. You don’t have to take such drastic steps to protect yourself, however; simply use common sense when opening attachments in your email.

2. Rogue Websites.
It is depressing to know that you may become infected with spyware or a virus by doing nothing more than simply visiting a website, but it is true. Many adult websites, gambling websites and other less than trustworthy websites will attempt to automatically access your computer when you visit them. They often install adware bugs that will cause a
flurry of pop ups to appear on your screen. This adware will often allow for other programs with even more nefarious purposes to be installed and before you know it, your computer will be swamped. To stop these rogue websites, adjust the settings on your antivirus
software and firewall so that no outside connections can be made and no programs can be installed without your express permission.

3. Networks.
If your computer is connected to a home network or if your work computer is part of a larger network, you may find yourself with an infection through no fault of your own. Someone else on the network downloaded a bug by accident, and within minutes, the entire network could be infected. There isn’t much you can do to stop these kinds of infections, short of having your network administrator ensure that everyone’s antivirus software is up to date so that the invading bug can be removed as quickly as possible.

4. Infected Boot disks.
Now that hard drives are obscenely large, the overwhelming percentage of us don’t bother to use boot disks anymore, but a virus can still be spread if an infected disk is in your hard drive and you attempt to restart. When you start your computer, your machine will always check your drives to see if a disk with boot information is present. If one is, your computer will likely automatically attempt to boot from the disk and not from your drive. If a virus is present, it will often be activated and you will become infected. Always know the origin of any disk you put into your drive.

5. Phishing Schemes.
Learning how computer viruses spread is important to keep yourself, and your personal information, safe online. Phishing schemes are one of the chief ways in which people end up with their identity stolen and a computer fill of viruses. A phishing scheme starts when you receive an email from a website claiming to be your bank or credit card company. You are asked to click a link and log in, but the truth is that you’ve just given away all of your personal information. Often times, when you visit these sites, spyware, adware and viruses are automatically installed on your computer (see Rogue Websites, above). Your lender or credit card will often send out a real notice that let’s you know that a phishing scheme is going around. The smartest thing you can do is to simply call your bank or credit card company if you receive an email saying there is a problem with your account instead of blindly following links in your email.

6. Infected Software.
One of the great things about the Internet is how many free games and programs there are out there, but these free programs often come at a price. Too many rogue websites intentionally infect their freeware (like Kazaa) with trojan viruses so that you unknowingly infect your computer every time you download a free game or piece of software. The key here is to only download freeware or shareware from a trusted source like CNet that always ensures your safety.

7. Hackers.
The Internet today is a much more law abiding place than it was ten years ago. Not only did most people not have antivirus protection and firewalls that could stop incoming attacks, most people didn’t even know what they were. Today, people understand the value of good online protection, but hackers can still pose a problem if you allow your protection software to lapse. The best way to beat hackers is to ensure that you have a firewall and up to date antivirus software.

8. Instant Messaging.
It is difficult to find a computer in this day and age that doesn’t have at least one instant messaging service installed on it. Unfortunately, these programs are often targets of hackers who see an easy way to trick people into clicking links that lead them to rogue websites. Common sense can keep you out of trouble, however. Only chat with people you know and never follow links to sites that you don’t recognize. You should easily be able to keep Internet worms, viruses and other bugs at bay.

9. Fake Anti Virus Software.
This is one of the most frustrating ways to become infected with a virus or worm. There are dozens of anti virus and anti spyware programs you can download for free on the Internet and a surprising number of them actually do exactly the opposite of what they claim. The product websites make outrageous claims that their product can protect you from a whole range of threats, when, in reality, their product will only make things a thousand times worse. Only download antivirus programs from trusted sites or from websites that you know are completely legit.

10. From Mobile Devices.
A recent story in the newspaper should serve as a wake up call for anyone who is getting ready to plug in a mobile device into their computer for the first time. A family purchased a digital picture frame from a local store and when they attempted to install the software that came with it, they inadvertently infected their computer with a virus. There really is no way to stop such an infection from happening, since we all buy peripherals that work with our computer, but we can ensure that we have the tools ready to go if an infection should happen. Keep your anti virus software up to date at all times and you should be able to wrestle control back from any Internet bug.

11. Friends and Relatives.
Often times, we are sent viruses through our email from people that we know and trust. The social networking site Facebook has had to battle this very problem when their serves get a bug and automatically send out emails to everyone on the system that are infected. Often times, these emails are extremely generic sounding and come with suspicious attachments, but people often open them anyway since they have come from a friend or from a site they trust, like Facebook. Remember, if you get an attachment with an .exe extension or a .dll, don’t ever open it.

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About the Author

Stephen is a publisher, editor, and reviewer for Antivirus Software Reviews.

About Viruses and Spyware

A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself  and infect a computer. The term “virus” is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the
reproductive ability. A true virus can spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive.  (wikipedia)

  • Viruses
    A virus is a small piece of software that piggybacks on real programs. For example, a virus might attach itself to a program such as a spreadsheet program or can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files.
    Each time the spreadsheet program runs, the virus runs, too, and it has the chance to reproduce (by attaching to other programs) or wreak havoc. Read More Here

Short for malicious software, is software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. Software is considered to be malware based on the perceived intent of the creator rather than any particular features. Read More Here.

  • Worm – A worm is a small piece of software that uses computer networks and security holes to replicate itself. A copy of the
    worm scans the network for another machine that has a specific security hole. It copies itself to the new machine using the security hole, and then starts replicating from there, as well. Read More Here
  • Trojan – A Trojan simply put, is a computer program that claims to do one thing (it may claim to be a game) but instead does
    damage when you run it (it may erase your hard disk). Trojan horses have no way to replicate automatically.Read More Here
  • Root Kit
    A rootkit is software that consists of one or more programs designed to obscure the fact that a system has been compromised. Contrary to what its name may imply, a rootkit does not grant a user administrator privileges, as it requires prior access to
    execute and tamper with system files and processes. An attacker may use a rootkit to replace vital system executables, which may then be used to hide processes and files the attacker has installed, along with the  presence of the rootkit.Read More Here
  • Adware
    Or advertising-supported software is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads
    advertisements to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used. Read More Here



How to Protect your computer from Viruses.

Is your computer bogged-down by viruses, spyware, malware,
crapware and other stuff? Are you asking yourself, I don’t even know how that got on
there? Here are some simple tips to help reduce the risk of infecting
your computer.

1: Install an Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware program. Be sure to keep this up
to date and do weekly full scans.

2: Set up your Windows Update to automatically download patches and
upgrades. This will allow your computer to automatically download any
updates to both the operating system (i.e. Windows) and Internet
Explorer. These updates fix security holes in both pieces of software.

3: Install and use a Firewall.

4: Do not open email attachments from people you do not know.
Opening up unknown email attachment is a great way to infect your
computer with a virus.

5: Resist the temptation to install “free” Internet games,
emoticons,  screensavers, and the like.

These so-called “free” programs often contain adware or worse and can result
in your computer being plagued with pop-up advertisements amongst other
very annoying things.

Doing the above is the basic minimum that you should do to
help protect your computer but will NOT guarantee 100% protection. To further reduce the possibility of getting
a virus or similar, follow these simple guidlines.

1: Email is a common way of getting infected

While you can safely open an Email, NEVER click on a link within it or
open an attachment that you are not positive is from a trusted source.

Here are 2 scenarios:

I. You get an Email from someone you DON’T know. You
open it. It
tells you (or, persuades you) to click on a link in the Email. You do
so. That is when you get infected. Frequently, the Email appears to be
from a bank or a company you know. Do not fall for this. Businesses do
not normally send unsolicited Email.

II. You get (what appears to be) an Email from
someone you DO know. Unknown to you, a virus generated that Email (and not your
friend). It could be that your friend’s computer is infected, but, not
always. Obviously, the actual Email writer doesn’t know you and cannot
say anything personal to you, so, typically, it says something like
“Click on this link for some important information… “. You are now

If in doubt, delete the Email.

2: Instant messengers.
You should use the same caution as with opening links and attachments as Emails.

3: Web sites
Visiting Adult, Free game or gambling sites pose a high risk of
infection. In addition, do not download software or “Addons” from web
sites that you are unfamiliar with. This includes sites such as
“Facebbook” and “Myspace”.

4: Do not click on sudden pop-up windows whilst browsing the

5: Stay away from file-sharing sites.

Sites that distribute illegal software, music, or movies are known to be riddled
with viruses. This includes torrents or other forms of P2P activities
(Limewire/Kazaa/etc. for example). Staying away from these sites and
programs is in your best interest and that of your computer, as well as
a good way to avoid being sued for copyright violation.

6: Do not install unknown codecs.
A codec enables your computer to properly play video or audio. A common
virus infection ploy is to put a popular video out which might play
back without the sound accompanied with a note to download a ‘special’
codec to get the sound. Needless to say, the codec is genuine ‘special’
since it contains a virus. See also 5. above.

The above advice is generally good practice to follow but is NOT
a 100% guarantee that your computer will not get infected again in the
future, however, by following these tips you minimise the possibility