Just What is a Computer Virus?

Just What is a Computer Virus?

It is like catching the cold virus, it is spread by other people through bacteria, reproducing until the system is infected and sick. It is one of the most common computer repair issues that are out there. No one wants a virus, it does not feel good, and they restrict your activity as well as keep people at a distance from you. The computer virus acts much like the biological virus in that it has the same effects, only it infects files and spreads electronically. In this article I will define the virus, explain how it spreads, and how to tell the difference between a virus and other forms of attacks.

The basic definition of a virus is a series of written instructions in a computer program that is designed to reproduce and infect another computer. It is programming code that’s purpose is to destroy another program. Most of the time a user will not?realize?that they have a virus because they can take the form of a regular program, or hide deep in your system files?unbeknownst?to anyone it is there.

Anti-virus programs have been fighting a never-ending battle with hackers, people who want to rip off and spread chaos throughout people’s computers. How do they spread? A real computer virus can only be spread by a human who inserts it into the target computer himself via floppy or disc, or even sending it over the internet.

The first “wild” virus, that is, a virus that appeared out of the computer lab back in the 70’s, actually attacked the Apple DOS system. Back then, the only way to really create a virus and have it spread was through hands-on work like inserting a floppy disk into a computer.

Viruses spread when they are attached to the .exe or executable file. Say you want to open a program that has been on your computer for a while, you trust it to work properly and it does. But a hacker hooks a virus to the .exe file that the next time you open the program the virus takes effect, damaging the files and ruining the program.

That is the main idea of a computer virus, to attach to a file (cell) and jumping to other files like it, until the computer is no longer usable. At Computer Geeks calls come in about viruses?or recovering a computer from an attack. So what can you do about it to prevent your computer even further than the anti-virus protection is.

When in doubt, and when your computer is definitely infected, choose the System Restore that was explained earlier in the November blogs. This will turn back the clock to a time when ?your computer was not infected. But hackers are getting smarter, making their viruses disable the Control Panel, or messing with the System Restore so that the computer gets restored to the same day the virus started.

The difference between the virus and other programs like adware, spyware, and malware, is that the virus spreads and reproduces. It is a catch-all phrase for all the bad stuff that happens on a computer. When something starts to go wrong, people think virus because it makes sense. But knowing exactly what is wrong with your computer can allow whoever you ask to fix it to do it faster and perhaps recover the files. And if you need help you can always call us at Computer Geeks


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Weak Passwords

What is your password? Just kidding, don’t tell me, I will just guess and maybe get it right. Or I will easily hack into it with any number of programs available on the internet. We live in an age where one can search for anything on the web and receive information like how to build a bomb. ?Breaking passwords is easier, so be prepared.

Here at Computer Geeks we see it happen all the time. People call in asking for help recovering their email or even their log-in so they can access the computer, because the evil hacker guessed “monkey” and got it right. Stop these weasels before they really do some damage to your email or computer.

A computer security company called Duo Security ran a decryption of hundreds of thousands of passwords and was able to crack everyone of them, simply because they were “weak”. A weak password contains only letters and numbers, sure mixing them up with alphanumerals is good, but not enough.

Passwords seem like something to get it out of the way so you can sign up or log in fast. This attitude can prove to be fatal, as hackers can just as easily decrypt passwords like Duo did, but with evil intentions reek havoc on your personal files.

Some of the accounts that Duo cracked into were from federal and state government agencies, with employees providing weak passwords, anyone with a knowledge of hacking could have access to confidential information that is very valuable. If you think your email was one of the ones tested, go to this?Web-based tool to find out just type in your email address.

Personally I used to just put in a funny name or something relevant to my life that I could remember. I learned quickly that it is not what I can remember, but what someone who wants to access my files remembers. Now I am being safe by using letters, a symbol or two, and a number. This is the safest bet to ensure that hackers will at least have a harder time trying to get in.

The most common ways of hackers is to guess:

  • the user’s name or?login name
  • the name of a?significant other, a friend, relative or pet
  • birthplace or?date of birth, or a friend’s, or a relative’s
  • automobile license plate number, or a friend’s, or a relative’s
  • office number, residence number or most commonly, their mobile number.
  • a name of a?celebrity they like
  • a simple modification of one of the preceding, such as suffixing a digit, particularly?1, or reversing the order of the letters.
  • a swear or curse word

If you use the last one on this list, you might as well deserve to be hacked into and destroyed. But for the rest of you out there enjoying the a small sense of security when you login to accounts such as PayPal, online banking, or online stores with saved credit card information, it is time to open your eyes to the big picture. You know, the one where you are hiding in the corner because all your information was hacked into and used to buy all sorts of lewd and unexplainable items. This is something you could have avoided if you had heeded the advice given at Computer Geeks Blogs and changed the password to something like: ilovegeeks@123

It can’t hurt, but it will if you are not smart and leave the password at: “iamamonkey”

SPAM: The electronic food that no one likes

Remember Monty Python’s Flying Circus? One of the skits is done in a cafe where the only item on the menu is Spam. “Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!” sang the Viking patrons at the cafe. That is where all that nasty lunch meat reference of an annoying computer scam comes from.

Not many people are big fans of a can of Spam, there are some who enjoy the taste, but I do not know of anyone who likes electronic spam. Spam is spread out all over the internet and is designed to attack computers gathering information, data, or just giving them viruses. It began back in the 90’s with the use of email, spammers sending out thousands of bogus emails. Email providers even had to get a service that detected spam and sent it to a separate folder. But even that is not keeping out the crap as spammers find new ways to infiltrate and bypass security systems to annoy you even more.

I read in a message that a person had 493 messages that were spam, wow.

Today, botnets are software agents that run by themselves and are independent once they are set up by a hacker or spammer. They are sent out through distributed systems, systems that are autonomous and communicate with other computers in a network. Hence the name: ‘roBOT NETwork’. These robots are designed to infect your computer with trojans, worms, and other malicious wares.

In fact, the email botnets send out so much spam equaling 85-90% of all messages send and received!

Spam does not stop at emails, they reach out to instant messaging, social media such as Myspace and Facebook, and even blogs like Computer Geeks. I cannot tell you how many spam comments I get with bogus links to websites or just random words to fill and clutter the inbox.

The number of spam messages for the United States reached 6.6??Trillion this past year, they were second only to Brasil with 7.7 Trillion, and India came in third with 3.6 Trillion.

This is a costly business, spam means manpower, loss of productivity, and additional equipment and software, in 2007 the United States spent $13 Billion alone on combating it. What can you do at home to fight back against these bots? Not a whole lot.

These botnets are so numerous to name, trying to will give you a headache, which is exactly why they are designed. The infected computers, called “zombies”, send out all those annoying emails about Viagra or Cialis, or new products, or a girl who wants ?to have sex with you(check to make sure it might be a real one).

You might not even know it, but your computer could be infected and be sending out messages! Once the virus is installed, the “botmaster” can control is from anywhere. Recently a botnet named Rustock has become the biggest of the bots, controlling over one million bots sending out over 44 billion spam messages a day(Symantec study).

They are getting harder to detect too. These new botnets can be detected right away with the security softwares, so they are switching from carrying bulk messages to carrying smaller amounts so they can slip right by and into your inbox.

Bottom line, there will always be spam sent out in the billions every day. It is a fact of life, as long as internet exists, so will spam. Yum!

Who’s Got Your Back? 5 Steps to Backup

Owning a computer is great, it allows you to do so much with such little effort, perfect for our?lazy?natures to sit down and spend days not really doing any physical activity. I bet you want that to last a real long time, am I correct? Well, how do you think that will happen? Just by being lucky?

I say lucky because most people including me think they are invincible, or that nothing wrong and unexpected will happen to them. Recently I forced myself to go to Staples and by DVD-R’s for the purpose of backing up my system. I had seen too many people hopelessly lost due to the fact that their invincibility shield wore off and their system crashed.

If you are nodding your head in agreement wanting to back up important files, but do not know how to do it, Computer Geeks is here for you as a friend to help with this. It is simple, but the mind complicates simplicity, so throw that out and just read.

Backing up your system is the smartest thing you can ever do on a computer, people think porn is, but those people are?Neanderthals and need counseling. The computer is a machine, and machines have flaws, bugs, problems, and failures. So it is only right for someone who is of the right mind, to make the decision “just to be safe”, saving a huge headache in the event of disaster when all your precious files are lost.

Step 1: Get the hardware, go to your local supplier of computer devices and ask them for their best opinion on backup. Try DVD-R, they hold at least 4 GB, and they come in spindles so you get the biggest bang for your broccoli. If you do not have a DVD writer, which you can tell if you look at the disc tray(DVD ReWritable), then get a flash drive. If you are backing up a LOT of files, go the external hard drive.

Step 2: Go home, get a drink of something strong like hot apple cider, and put the device whether it be the DVD-R in the disc tray, or the flash/external hard?drive in the USB port. Go to the computer folder, and look for the “Devices” section, you will see your device. Open that, this is where you will be copying files to.

Step 3: Now, here is where discretion is best put to the test: what do you need to backup and what do you need to ignore? That is up to you. Personally I backed up everything I could not recover simply by installing it again like games or internet browsers. They will only take up valuable space on my device which is meant to backup IMPORTANT files, such as documents and photos.

Step 4: Go through your computer with this discretion in the forefront of your mind, use the search button that is located in the Start Menu, this is an easy way to find all that crap. When you get the files up, copy them, and paste them onto the device.

Step 5: Take out the device, store it some place that is safe, and go to sleep that night with a smile knowing that no matter what happens, at least your computer which is your life, is backed up!

‘Tis the Season to Shop Online

It does not come soon enough, this holy holiday, when depression rates soar and stress doubles during a a few months in the winter; yes, Christmas is here!

We all know shopping is done and the gifts are bought for our kids, friends, and loved ones, but this year it seems everyone is going online to shop. This brings up new threats to your security and new ways for those pesky thieves to get your money. Here are ways to protect against them and make sure the season is as jolly as it should be.

If you have kept on the blogs at Computer Geeks, you are one step above everyone who has not, because you know about phishing attacks. These are fake websites that grab your info without you even knowing it, usually by clicking on a link that goes to a website set-up by a hacker. During the holiday season, these attacks increase ten fold because people are ignorant to phishing, thus making it easy to hack into your credit or debit card information as they surf and shop. Be careful, be aware, check the URL that loads from a link on website or email-make sure it matches what the address bar says.

While you are looking for the coolest toy or newest video game that your kid just has to have, before you fill out the form of payment with your credit card information, check the website for signs that verify that it is secure. First look at the address bar, look at the beginning of the address: if it has HTTPS you are good. Also look on the bottom of your browser, it usually has a locked padlock to show that it is secure. Most big sites like?Amazon, EB Games, and Best Buy?actually have certificates of security on their sites.

Here is a good one, forget using debit cards unless you are okay with putting information such as access to your bank account. Use credit cards.

There are certain security questions that a site might ask you, like where you have previously lived, answer them. These are designed to make sure you are who you say your are.

Attacks happen all the time on the internet, you may think it won’t happen to you, until it happens and ‘what are you gonna do’ is all you can say. Don’t be that schmuck, take action. Arm yourself with sufficient facts that will keep you safe this holiday season. When you are spending all that money on things that will probably become trash in a couple years, remember that there are people out there with the means and the will to access your information. But they cannot if you know what to look for.

That is our goal, my goal in this blog, to educate the masses of people out there of the risks posed by the internet. It is a scary world today, and today’s world is online, so what are you doing to protect yourself?

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