This document covers the basics on computer viruses. Please take some time to peruse the information to obtain an overall understanding of the concern and how to safeguard yourself from the dangers of viruses.
What is a Virus?
A computer virus is one of thousands of programs that can invade computer systems (both IBM PC and Macintosh) and perform a variety of functions ranging from annoying (e.g., popping up messages as a joke) to dangerous (e.g., deleting files or destroying your hard disk). Trojan horses or worms are specific types of clandestine programs (loosely categorized as viruses) and can be just as dangerous. For simplicity’s sake, future mention of viruses in this document will refer to viruses, trojan horses, and worms taken as a whole.
How Do Viruses Spread?
Computer viruses are programs that must be triggered or somehow executed before they can infect your computer system and spread to others. Examples include opening a document infected with a “macro virus,” booting with a diskette infected with a “boot sector” virus, or double-clicking on an infected program file. Viruses can then be spread by sharing infected files on a diskette, network drive, or other media, by exchanging infected files over the Internet via e-mail attachments, or by downloading questionable files from the Internet.
At the beginning of February, 2001, UH Information Technology Services installed an e-mail virus scanner on its mail gateway. This software is able to filter out viruses sent as e-mail attachments before it is received by ITS customers. However, it is not foolproof and new and unrecognized viruses may still be able to get through the filter.