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VIRUSES are programmes installed in your computer, usually accidentally, that are designed to duplicate themselves and spread, the term virus does not imply or take into account any damaged caused, although they are usually written to some way change you computers behaviour, including preventing part or all of your operations system from running.

They can infect a computer by piggy backing on another programme or download, by e-mail or even just by being connected to the internet with an unprotected PC. The Lovsan.A worm, also known as Blaster, scans the internet for computers with a vulnerability in port 135. This security hole was fixed with a patch from windows, but it clearly spells out the importance of keeping your operating system fully updated.

It is estimated that there are 500 new viruses discovered each month.

Common symptoms of infection include-

Sudden decline in PC performance.

Sending e-mail becomes particularly slow.

Programmes like Microsoft word or excel display an incorrect format message when attempting to run.

Strange, unprompted P.C. activity.

Programmes do not run or function incorrectly.

Unexpected changes to data, corrupt or missing files.

Friends receive e-mails you did not send.

Please note, if your computer displays any of the above characteristics, it does not necessary mean you are infected, most symptoms do have other causes. You should however use them as a trigger for further investigation.

There are many different classifications for viruses, but the one that cause the majority of problems in both terms of levels of infections and potential damage is a WORM, It will attach itself to a file or document and send it  to e-mail addresses it finds within the infected computer. Major outbreaks have caused havoc.
There are some very complex worms that can change their 'technical identity' or their intended functions as they move from machine to machine, to make their detection and removal more difficult. These are called Polymorphic worms.

Worms are capable of-
Changing your computers configuration.
Causing strange or unprompted behaviour.
Open access paths into your computer
Change or disable security programmes to avoid detection
Spreading rapidly.

Another one that is very widespread, but are not capable of causing the same level of damage, so get little coverage in comparison are MACROS,
These are codes that provide functions, e.g. calculations on a spreadsheet, but their inclusion in many applications have made them another avenue to spread viruses. They are usually sent in applications using a .doc or .xls file and are opened with Microsoft Word or Excel.
They are detected and removed with some anti-virus software, or by special tools or instruction which you can get by typing  the virus name into a search engine.
They can cause-
applications to perform unexpected tasks.

Other classifications are Boot sector virus. It infects the boot sector (the initial start up sequence) or partition via a floppy, a disk or can be placed there by an executable programme.

File infections install themselves into the executable file of a programme in your PC. During the process of installing themselves they may overwrite part or all of the original file (including Windows files), rendering the programme useless. Some can be very destructive and reformat the hard drive, or perform other damaging actions at a pre determined time or when a specific action is carried out by the user, e.g. typing a certain word, hitting a particular key or opening a programme.

Multi-partite viruses carry both file infection and boot sector components.

The best way to deal with the threat from computer viruses is to keep your Windows fully updated, many security issues are resolved with a patch and use an anti virus programme which you can get on a disk or download from various sites on the internet, the ones listed in the table below come recommended, some companies offer a Free version, which is better than none at all but it will have some features disabled, so for maximum protection you should buy the full version if you are in a position to.

Anti virus software
Product description On line scan Free version Free trial Full version
Avast Increasingly popular and trusted protection  
AVG Comprehensive antivirus protection for personal computers  
Bit defender Powerful protection, available in 3 versions, Professional, Standard and Free.
Etrust Anti virus, firewall and deskshield, available individually or a package    
IRClean A free application to specifically target the increasing number of worms that spread via IRC chat/messenger networks.      
Kaspersky Reliable, powerful and effective virus protection  
McAfee Security Popular, respected protection      
Norman anti-virus Powerful virus detection and removal    
Panda Award winning anti virus software  
PC-cillin Well respected package of firewall and anti-virus protection from Trend-Micro  
PC Security shield Range of quality security products      

Run a virus check regularly. Open your virus scanner from your desktop or Start > Programmes.
Check for updates, Get into the habit of updating before every scan.
Scan your computer and follow on screen instructions to remove any infections.

If you have a virus which is being detected by your scanner but not deleted.

1) Re-start your PC in Safe mode, by holding down the F8 button during the initial start up procedure. Use the up and down arrow keys to select Start PC in safe mode and hit the enter key.
This will start your PC with only essential Windows programmes running.

2) If /_restore/ is in the file path for the virus, turn off System Restore.
Windows ME and XP comes with a useful little feature called SYSTEM RESTORE. It makes a copy of your PC settings and programmes at the time of each restore point. This is very useful to return your computer to a point before any problems occurred, but in making a copy of what is in your computer, it will also copy and store any viruses. System restore does not allow changes to be made within the restore files, any malware in there is not active but you can remove the restore points by turning system restore off.
Click START and then Right Clicking My computer to open the System Properties box. Click the System Restore tab, and put a check mark on the Turn off System restore box, and click Apply.

3) Scan your Pc with your virus scanner, follow on screen instructions to clean any infections.

4) Restart your PC in normal mode, If you turned off system restore, remove the Turn of system restore check mark, and create a new restore point by clicking Start > All programs > Accessories > System tools > System restore..
Select Create a new restore point and Next to follow the on screen instructions.

If you still have problems, try a FREE online virus scan (or two),
Panda, Bit defender , Trend Microor Kaspersy .

You can check if your anti-virus software is working correctly. Eicar have a fake virus file that you can download to see if your scanner detects it. (A top end firewall will also detect the download as a virus) Try it here

One other word of caution, many viruses are now being programmed to disable or disrupt anti virus software it finds in a computer, you can actually protect your anti virus software from attack, Process Guard is a programme that will block attempts to change programmes you choose to be protected. There is a free version with some facilities disabled, or a full version cost approx £13.60. ($24.95).

Read our story a day in the life of a virus

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