A Virus Story

Computer viruses have been around for a very long time, and somehow they always manage to make our lives difficult if we are not prepared to fight them and prevent their attack. Viruses can have simple consequences such as slowing down a computer or blocking a screen. But there are some extremely harmful ones out there that can bring down an entire company’s system and cause billions of dollars in damage.

As for today we still deal with an obscene amount of junk mail that sometimes ends up in our inbox. If you were never a victim, you might be tempted to open that email and even download the file(s) attached to it. But watch out! You could become a victim of a harmful virus. One well-known case was the Love Letter (2001). The virus infiltrated email accounts and sent messages with the subject line “ILOVEYOU” and an attachment titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs.” When you opened the file it overwrote image files on infected computers and then, sent a copy of itself to the first 50 email addresses saved in a Microsoft Outlook contact list. This caused a devastating $15 billion worth of damage.

Another case was the SoBig (2003). This one infected computers with Microsoft operating system, also through their email accounts. It acted like a Trojan horse (is a non-self-replicating type of malware which appears to perform a desirable function but instead drops a malicious payload, often including a backdoor allowing unauthorized access to the target’s computer in that it looked like an innocent message sent from a friend). After infecting a computer, the virus sent itself to contacts saved in the user’s email account. To this day, Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the SoBig creator that caused $37.1 billion in damage.
But we are not the only victims of these undesirable, harmless looking programs. In 2001, computers running the Microsoft ISS web server (including those at the White House) were victims of Code Red. A worm (meaning it’s a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers without the need of attaching itself to another virus) that exploited weaknesses in the indexing software causing more than $2 billion in damage. Later on, in 2007, the Conficker worm showed up; this one preyed upon flaws within the Microsoft Windows System gaining administrator access on infected computers. The virus was so advanced that it was able to infect the networks of the French Navy; the U.K. Ministry of Defense; the British House of Commons; and the Manchester City Council and Police Department; and it caused $9 billion in damage!

Scary huh? … Well don’t panic. Here are some tips to avoid these bad boys. First of all it is extremely important that you keep frequent updates by installing the security updates for your operating system, firewall, installed programs and anti-virus software as they become available. Once again, it is essential to be careful when opening emails. You shouldn’t access an email if it is obvious to you that it’s a virus, but if you don’t, make sure you do not download any files attached to it. Today viruses and worms are so sophisticated that you don’t have to download an attachment anymore for a message to infect your computer. If you get an unexpected message with an attachment
from a person you know, call the sender first to verify the legitimacy of the correspondence. And last but not least, as you may know, the simple act of visiting a new website can be enough to infect your computer. To prevent an attack, set the security settings on your browser to high, and stay away from sites that seem hokey or make promises that are too good to be true. If your browser pops up a warning about a potentially dangerous site, quickly close the window. And never agree to a virus scan that’s in the form of an internet popup, no matter what the popup says.

We know this can be a time consuming exercise, and even if you follow every step, it might not even guarantee your computer’s and data’s safety. But that is what we are here for. If you suspect that you are under a virus attack don’t hesitate to call us. Our certified technicians at PcMac Express can help you out in no time and will be glad to make your life a little bit better.