Daddy, where do viruses come from?

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2 comments   |   Computer General, Viruses

What is a Virus?

Do you remember the first time you asked this question? I do. I remember my parents’ first computer – It was a 133 MHz Quantex. It was, quite possibly the….SLOWEST, UGLIEST piece of computer anyone has ever seen. But it was pretty much standard for the time. I remember my Dad buying Norton Antivirus (the original!), as I sat there thinking, “What is a virus? Why would we need that? Is the computer sick?” My Dad took the time to explain to me that when two people really love each other… I mean, when people get on the Internet, they open themselves up to everything that is out there, because the Internet was designed to share information, not conceal it. Unfortunately, not everything that is shared is good. Viruses are one of those not-good things. They are pieces of software designed by intelligent, malevolent people to cause headaches for everyone else out there trying to use the Internet. I did not understand everything my Dad was telling me, but I knew at that point that a good antivirus was important.

Fifteen years later, that hasn’t changed a bit. You still need a good antivirus. By the way, I hear all of you Macaholics out there now.  I hear you preaching, “Macs don’t get viruses! You should get a Mac! Boo on PC! Mac all the way! Mac 3:16!” I doubt you know this but, the first virus was written for an Apple computer. Do your own research; it’s true. Not only that, but Macs get viruses too. They do not get as many of them, because there are not as many Mac computers in the world as there are PC’s. But viruses for Mac computers do exist. I can already hear some Macaholics crying over this news. If you need a tissue, you may purchase one for $.99 from the App Store App Store(TM).

Although the need for an antivirus has not changed, what has changed in the past fifteen years is the frequency of virus infections. With the rise of the Internet as the go-to place for information, and the recent advent of social media that will define this generation,  the amount of malicious software  (“malware”) on the Internet has sky-rocketed. Likewise, the number of antivirus and anti-spyware  software suites available in the Western world alone has reached the hundreds.

Many people do not understand what a virus is, how it gets on your computer, and how to prevent that from happening. There will be more on this topic later, but for the time being, let me come to the heart of the question at hand– Where do viruses come from? The answer is simple: they come from the Internet. Just like my Dad told me years ago, the Internet was designed to share information. Thousands of companies have been born in the wake of attempting to make the Internet “less open,” but that was not its original intent. When you get online, you open yourself up to the digital world. Everything on  your computer becomes  susceptible to someone looking to get into it.  That may seem scary at first, but with the increased security features available in most operating systems and networking devices (Firewalls), as well as the ready availability of antivirus software, the threat of a typical Internet user  being “hacked” is honestly minimal. There is not normally a need to say a prayer for safety before checking your email.

What is important to note, though, is that the world of computer viruses is always changing.  Contracting a computer virus will always be a calculated risk of getting on the Internet.  The only sure-fire guarantee against ever getting a virus is  to never get on the Internet. We have customers in Computer Depot from time to time who unwittingly think that we have some way to “guarantee” that after we work on their computer, they will never get a virus again. Unfortunately, that is not the case. No company on earth can guarantee such a thing anymore than they can guarantee that they will not get in a car wreck on the way to work. And before you think, “Well, I have Norton,” or “I have McAfee,” or “TrendMicro,” or “Kaspersky,” or “Panda,” or “AVG,” or “Avast,” or “BitDefender,” or “WinXPAntivirus Pro” (That last one was a joke; WinXPAntivirus Pro is a virus), you need to know that no antivirus is perfect. Computer Depot recommends Panda Antivirus Pro, but even as strongly as we feel about that software, it is not 100%. It is not a guarantee that you will never get a virus. Antivirus is like a seatbelt in your car. Although it will help protect you in case you are ever in an accident; it does not prevent accidents, and it does notguarantee that you will never be hurt.

Again, there will be more on this topic at a later date. For now, let me offer one tip to help you avoid viruses while on the Internet:

Stay away from anything “free”!

This includes free music, free wallpapers, free ringtones, free games, and yes,  you guessed it–free adult websites. Not everything out there that is “free” is bad, but it only takes one wrong click to allow a virus into your computer. If you want music, download iTunes. If you want games, buy it someplace or pay for a subscription. If you want ringtones, buy them. If you want wallpapers, buy them. If you want adult material… I suppose you can exercise your unwise, yet constitutional right to purchase it someplace else.

Remember, the Internet can be a great thing. It is not something to be afraid of, but don’t open your browser and start clicking on everything that looks fun and shiny. You wouldn’t drive your car all over the road without observing common sense and safety. Treat the Internet the same way. Enjoy what it has to offer, but if you ever see something that says, “Free _______,” do yourself a favor, and click someplace else.

Au revoir,

Scott Davis
Store Manager and Lead Technician
Powell Location

 

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