A computer virus is a program that is infectious and can be highly complex. Viruses implant instructions in other programs or storage devices that can attack, scramble, or erase computer data. The destructiveness of computer viruses lies in their ability to replicate themselves and spread from system to system. Few computing systems seem to be immune to infection. There are two categories of viruses that are common today: macro viruses and worms. Computer viruses are never "naturally occurring." They are always man-made. Once created and released, however, their spread is not directly under human control.
CaTS now requires that all computers connected to the university network have virus scanning software installed. For university-owned systems, you can call the Help Desk at 937-775-4827 to have Microsoft's Endpoint Protection installed on your Windows or Macintosh system free of charge. For personally owned systems, you can download antivirus software free of charge from the CaTS ConnectWright website under 'Security Software'.
The following activities are among the most common ways of getting computer viruses. Minimizing the frequency of these activities will reduce your risk of getting a computer virus.
- Freely sharing computer programs and system disks
- Downloading executable software from public-access bulletin boards
- Opening email attachments from people you don't know
Antivirus Information: Checklist for Safe Computing
Preventing viruses from infecting your computer is key to keeping your computer healthy. The following is a checklist for safe computing habits.
- Make sure your office computer and your home computer have virus detection software. There are two general functions antivirus programs perform: scanning for and removing viruses in files on disks, and monitoring the operation of your computer for virus-like activity (either known actions of specific viruses or general suspicious activity). Most antivirus packages contain routines that can perform each kind of task. Free virus detection software is available on the CaTS Antivirus Software website.
- Regularly back up your files. Viruses are one more very good reason to back up your files. Note: if you back up a file already infected with a virus, you can re-infect your system by restoring files from the backup copies. Check your backup files with virus scanning software before using them.
- Obtain software only from reputable sources. Check newly downloaded software for any signs of infection before you copy it to a hard disk. This can also help protect your computer from Trojan Horse programs.
- Open email attachments only from people you know. And even when you do that, be on the lookout for virus-infected attachments. Do not open attachments from unfamiliar individuals or attachments you were not expecting to receive.
- Quarantine infected systems. If you discover your system is infected with a virus, immediately isolate it from other systems. In other words, disconnect it from any network it is on and don't allow anyone to move files from it to another system. Once the system has been disinfected, you can copy or move files.