Few computer users today know of a computer virus that was code named Friday the Thirteenth by its creator. Those who do will recall the fear this virus generated in the eighties and the nineties. There would be system slowdowns, even network crashes on Friday the thirteenth. Computer engineers had a tough time, as viruses were an unknown entity then.
The question that mystified everyone was: How did virus infect computers? After all, by definition, a computer virus was not a living organism. Even more mystifying was the date: Why Friday the thirteenth only? Why not some other date?
It took several years for the computer engineers to nail the source. They found that the virus was a code, and the carrier were the floppies that were used by computer users to transfer/copy content. Once inside the system, the virus would go to sleep. It was only when the computer clock chimed Friday the Thirteenth that the virus would wake up, and attack the host’s operating system. The virus trigger was the date.
The floppy may have become extinct, and the mystery of Friday the Thirteenth computer crashes may have been solved but the threat that computer viruses pose to systems has not diminished. In fact, the computer viruses have become more potent, and more lethal. Their number, according to a Symantec report, has swarmed past the one million mark.
Still, very few computer users take the computer viruses seriously. They don’t realize that a computer virus can delete data, corrupt the operating system or capture the e-mail client and spread to other computers.
# It’s a code
The first thing you need to know about a computer virus is that it is a code. It cannot attack your system unless you give it access. More than that, you must remember that the computer virus like the living virus needs a medium to transmit. Earlier, the floppy was the most popular medium. Today, the net is an even better medium.
Virus creators attach the virus files to e-mails and then spam hundreds of unsuspecting users. You can easily defeat the virus creator by deleting such mails, especially the mails where the attachment is a .exe file.
The second route is pictures, greeting cards and video files. Once again, don’t open these files if you don’t trust the sender. The same policy must be adopted for attachments that come with instant messaging programmes.
Downloads is another route used to push viruses. Don’t download a programme from a site that you don’t know. It is inviting trouble. Also, never download freebies on the net or you will end up paying a high price.
Pen drives are even worse. With files, they also copy viruses from infected systems. Make sure you test pen drives every time you copy a file.
# Tell tale signs
You must also learn to diagnose the symptoms. The most common symptoms of virus infection are: sudden slowing down of your computer, frequent hangings, sections of computer like partitions or drives becoming inaccessible, problems in opening or running programmes like Microsoft Office etc.
Make sure you call the software specialist the moment you notice this erratic behaviour. It will help you neutralize the troublemaker before any real damage happens.
A better bet is to buy standard anti-virus software like McAfee, AVG, or Kaspersky, and install it on your system.
The anti-virus software will constantly scan every new file in the system, and alert you whenever it comes across suspicious or infected files. The virus creators too know this. That is why they continue to create new variants – viruses that can slip past the computer policemen.
That is why you are the best guard.