Computer Viruses - How do Viruses Travel?

Over the last few years there has been a heightened awareness of the existence of computer viruses and the destruction that can occur when a PC is infected by one. The threat of the Michelangelo virus, in particular, received widespread attention and prompted, in many cases, the installation of computer virus detection tools to reduce the risk of infection.

A computer virus is nothing more than software code, but this code can be destructive. In order for a PC to become infected, the code needs to be transferred to the PC and then executed. This most commonly occurs by means of an infected floppy diskette or infected attachment to an e-mail message, which can come from a variety of sources.

Several of these are listed below:

Pirated Software, Shareware, and Public Domain Software are common sources of viruses. This seems to be particularly true when games are involved. These tend to be shared among many users and the likelihood of a virus infection increases accordingly. Try to steer clear of this type of software, or be sure to follow recommended anti-virus procedures.
E-mail letters, chain or other, especially with attachments containing .exe files, are very high on the likelihood scale of containing and spreading viruses. Don't open these, especially if from an unknown source, or be sure to follow recommended anti-virus procedures.
Your Technical Support and Service Engineers can provide an effective medium for the spread of viruses. Diagnostic diskettes / CD's, used in resolving a problem on a customer's PC, can become infected and in turn infect other PCs.
Personal computers at home can also be sources of infection. When work is brought home, the diskettes / CD's can become infected, and then the infection is taken back to the workplace.
Shrink Wrapped Software is generally virus free. The quality assurance procedures of major software vendors are geared to prevent the spread of viruses through their products. But, there is a very small chance that the shrink-wrapped software may contain a virus, since there is no guarantee that a package has not been previously opened, the software used and infected, and then repackaged prior to final sale.

To safeguard against infection, make sure you have anti-virus software on your PC and always scan diskettes, downloaded software, and inbound e-mail messages prior to opening / use.

Computer viruses cause much justifiable concern for all PC users. What do you do when you think you have a virus or someone warns you of a possible virus? The first thing you should do if you think you may have a virus is to contact your PC help desk, and follow the procedures that have been set up by your company. However, if you receive a warning such as many of us have via an e-mail message advising you to be aware of a virus, such as the "Good Times" virus, you should validate the information BEFORE sending it on through your network. As most of us are now aware, the "Good Times" virus threat was a hoax. But, because people with good intentions relayed the warning throughout their networks and to friends in other companies, it had the same effect as a true virus. It causes people to take time away from their job to pass the warnings on, resulting in MANY hours spent not in a company's best interests. The initiators of the warning have done what they possibly intended by causing a disruption in business without really doing anything to your PC systems.

So, whenever you receive one of these "warnings", validate it BEFORE you alert the world. It will save us all time. If it is a true virus, proper action wil / should be taken. If it is a hoax, you will have defeated the purpose of whoever initiated it. To validate virus warnings such as this, contact your PC help desk or your favorite anti-virus vendor.