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Information Security

Virus Information

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Information Security

Allegheny Hall 9006
121 W. Rosedale Avenue
West Chester, PA 19383

Frank Piscitello, Manager/CISO
Phone: 610-436-3192 
Fax: 610-436-3110 

Virus Information

General Information

This is a great place to keep yourself informed on the latest news on computer viruses that may affect your computer here at WCU or even at home. If you have any questions about computer viruses, please feel free to contact IT Help Desk, x3350.


Top 10 Virus Hoaxes

Source: Sophos Anti-Virus

Practice Safe Computing

Information Services has deployed the Command Anti-Virus software package on all faculty and staff computers across campus. This software has also been installed in all of the general access computing labs. Periodic updates to the software are installed to prevent infection from new strands of computer viruses. These updates will be deployed remotely via Winstall software.

About Computer Viruses

Computer viruses were originally created as harmless programs that would do something amusing and then disappear. A virus program contains instructions to initiate some sort of "event" that affects the infected computer. Each virus has a unique event associated with it. These events and their effects can range from harmless to devastating. For example:

  • An annoying message appearing on the computer screen.
  • Reduced memory or disc space.
  • Modification of data.
  • Files overwritten or damaged.
  • Hard drive erased.

Types of Computer Viruses

There are many types of computer viruses including file viruses, boot sector viruses and Trojan Horse programs.

  • File virus: Most viruses fall into this category. A virus attaches itself to a file, usually a program file.
  • Boot sector virus: These viruses infect floppy and hard drives. The virus program will load first, before the operating system.
  • Trojan Horse: These programs appear to be something other than what they are, for example a "virus" that is disguised as a legitimate software program. Some virus experts do not classify Trojan Horse programs as true viruses, because they generally don't replicate.

Computer Virus Clues

Often, a user isn't aware that his or her computer is infected with a virus until the virus executes its unique event, such as displaying an unusual message or damaging a file. It is hard for people to detect viruses because they usually don't display symptoms prior to the event taking place.

However, some viruses will provide early clues that they exist, such as:

  • Changes in file or date stamp.
  • Longer times to load programs.
  • Slower system operation.
  • A program fails to start.
  • An unusual amount of disk activity (the floppy or disk drive runs for no apparent reason).

Reducing the Risk of a Virus Attack

While there are still viruses that do not harm or destroy, many have become destructive in their intent. Consequently, anti-virus software is compulsory for every computer on campus. By following these few simple guidelines, the risk of a virus attack can be reduced dramatically.

  • Make sure that your anti-virus software is regularly updated to take into account new viruses and variants recently written. WCU computers should be rebooted at least once a week to activate any upgrades.
  • Do not boot your PC from a floppy diskette unless you are certain that the diskette is clean and free from viruses.
  • Use the write-protect tab on a floppy diskette to prevent viruses from copying themselves onto the diskette.
  • Call or E-mail the Help Desk with questions regarding any unusual behavior you detect from you PC.
  • Do not open E-mail messages from strangers or attachments you weren't expecting.

If you receive an e-mail attachment that your anti-virus software flags, delete it immediately. It is a good idea to play it safe with attachments in general and not open any that aren't from a trusted source. If you receive an e-mail message with an attachment containing a virus you will not infect your system as long as you do not open the attachment.

Virus on Your University Computer

If you get a virus on your University computer, or if your computer seems to be operating abnormally, please do the following:

  • Write down what symptoms you observe. Was there a warning message? Funny behavior?
  • Call the Help Desk (x3350)

A Help Desk Consultant will assist you with scanning and removing the virus.

To verify that your PC has the Command Anti-Virus running, look in the lower right hand corner of your desktop. You should see the Command icon in the system tray.

Virus on Your Home Computer

Although we cannot provide anti-virus software or support for your home PC, it is essential to provide protection for that equipment as well. Provided for your convenience are the top four anti-virus program web sites.

Copyright © 1997 Network Solutions, Inc. This material may be quoted or reproduced provided appropriate credit is given and copyright notice is retained.


What are Viruses?

The term Virus is used by many people to mean many things. In computers, a Virus is a program or piece of a program that executes on a victims computer without the knowledge of the victim. There are 4 types of computer viruses, File, Boot, Macro, and Network viruses.

File viruses infect real programs that are installed in the computer, create file doubles, or uses "features" that are built into the system. Boot viruses infect the computer's disk drive where the computer gets instructions on how to start up the computer. Macro viruses are stored in documents, spreadsheets, or other files of popular packages such as Microsoft Word. Finally, network viruses spread themselves over the local network or over the Internet using protocols such as email.

One virus could actually be designed using one or more of the above virus types. The virus spreads itself based on the type of virus. The viruses have multiple methods of "living" inside a computer. TSR virus will stay in the computers memory while the computer is running. These viruses tend to intercept commands and messages the computer is processing. Stealth viruses are designed to hide themselves from the victim. Polymorphic and Self-Encrypting viruses are harder to detect. These viruses change themselves every time they execute. This makes it difficult for virus scanners to look for a virus's "fingerprint."

Finally, all viruses have some type of destructive capability. Some could actually be harmless. Other viruses use up a small amount of computing resources. Dangerous viruses may seriously disrupt computer use. Very Dangerous viruses may do just about anything to the victim's computer, including deleting files, erasing hard-drives, or change how programs work.

What can Viruses Infect?

  • Program files, non-file areas used on computer start up (boot sectors), and data files with macro capabilities
  • Data disks and disks used to transfer programs
  • Downloading of files from an online service, i.e. internet
  • A file attachment from an email message

What do Viruses not Infect?

  • Hardware, such as keyboards and monitors, graphic files, data files without macro capabilities, software items other than program files
  • Write protected disks
  • Your computer when you read messages from an online service, i.e. internet
  • Text-based email messages. For small messages, it is best to "cut and paste" onto the body of the email message rather than sending it as an attachment

Virus Scanners

If your computer did not come equipped with a virus scanner or your if your virus scanner is very old, visit the IT Help Desk Sophos Anti-Virus page (WCU Students & Employees only) or visit Antivirus Software for Windows page. A list of virus scanners are available to download. Most of these virus scanners are on a thirty day trial basis. After the trial period, they may require you to uninstall the virus scanner or you are always given the option to purchase the software.

If you currently own a virus scanner, you may have the option to update it. Updating your virus scanner downloads all new virus information to your computer to help protect your files from the newest viruses.


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