A New Breed of Viruses Attack Computers

"Computer virus" is the latest buzzword in the computer industry. Computer viruses, or "trojan horses" as they are sometimes called, are small, invisible programs that install themselves in a computer's operating system. These viruses often have intentionally harmful effects, crashing systems and hard disks. The viruses are self-replicating, so that any system that comes in contact with an infected system will also be infected.

One story we recently heard through the grapevine concerned a "computer virus" that made its way into the computerized record keeping system of a small West Coast university. As the operator described it, she was entering data into the record system when a prompt came up that said "Let's play pinball!" After that, the heads on the disk drive started moving quickly back and forth over the computer's hard disk, destroying everything in its path. The guess is that this particular trojan horse was written onto the system by one of the students at the university, but trojan horse programs can also make their way into your system in other ways.

Computer virii can breed wherever computers congregate, and can be carried through software in any form of media. Public domain software, poorly maintained bulletin board systems, and pirated software disks can all be sources of a virus. Unfortunately, these viruses usually can't be spotted until the damage is done. In most cases, a user finding his system infected with a computer virus must not only reformat his hard disk, but also replace the system files for any and all disk-based software he owns.

To avoid the risk of computer contamination, one must take extra care in regards to how and where he or she receives software that he or she uses with his or her machine. Public domain software, and any other form of software that is readily swapped and traded amongst users, should be treated with a great degree of caution. Check the source of the disk, and if you don't trust the source, don't trust the software. Don't ever download a software program from a BBS directly to your hard disk. Save it to a floppy disk first, and keep it isolated from the rest of your media until you've studied it completely. Remember, computer virii can be deadly to your software collection.

Also keep in mind there are some demented and destructive people out there conducting germ warfare with their computers. Think of your computer's health before you boot up.

A social disease for computers… isn't technology wonderful?


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