Computer viruses are computer programs that can scramble or destroy your
data; consistently make themselves larger and larger, eventually filling
the hard drive; hide access to your system setup utilities; make the
mouse or keyboard create strange characters; and other more destructive
Top secret projects require protection from being copied. Some
programmers within companies who have top secret projects are hired to
create programs that destroy themselves or destroy computers when secret
data is copied. Some programs scramble themselves into secret code.
Imagine a disgruntled employee or a computer student who has a mean
streak in him/her. They have been known to create programs that are
destructive. This is the basis of what, today, we call a computer virus.
How do I get them?
Viruses can hide themselves in other files, hide in the first "hidden"
section on a disk or be made to look like just another file. They are
transferred from computer to computer either by copying and/or by using
an infected file. It can be transferred by diskette, across a network,
or by downloading a file from the Web and using it.
Using a virus checker
These days, most computer users have anti-virus programs on their
systems. It scans for viruses on their hard drive every time the
computer is turned on. However, most users do not realize two very
- The virus list must be updated monthly or, at least quarterly. McAfee's Virus-scan added 99 viruses to their list from November to December of last year!
- Most anti-virus programs , by default, scan only program files. The hidden section (boot) and data files are ignored unless a special setting is changed. Therefore, viruses which infect data and document files are not detected. The most rampant viruses today infect MS Word templates and documents rather than the program itself.
Most virus checking programs are excellent at detecting viruses.
However, not all viruses are curable. If your anti-virus program
manufacturer has no cure, you may try another product or, there may be a
work-around for getting by the virus until a cure is found. Depending
upon the type of virus, a cure may be to backup your data, format the
hard drive and carefully reload the system.
Buying a computer is what I would call an investment. This investment
costs both time and money, both of which we have precious little these
days. In previous articles, we mentioned protecting your investment by
backing up data, performing regular maintenance and the placement of the
equipment (away from heat and dust, and think ergonomics). One concern,
rarely mentioned in articles or tips books, is electrical power.
Located in the appendix of the owner's manual of every electrical device
is a chart with wattage, volts and loads. Now, these numbers and letters
may mean nothing to us, but we should pay attention to where we plug in
our computers and expensive electronic equipment. These numbers could
come into play if we are not careful.
Electrical power, supplied to us by our faithful electric company varies
depending upon the type of building we are in. For obvious reasons,
modern commercial buildings are supplied with much more power than, say,
a house or apartment building. However, both places are subject to
surges, spikes and brownouts (highs and lows of power). Older buildings,
especially, and poor wiring were not designed for today's electrical
demands. Homes have the most unstable power and the equipment in them is
the most vulnerable.
Special consideration should be given to electrical circuits in your
home. Be sure that you do not plug your computer into the same circuit
as your air conditioner, refrigerator or other large appliances as they
can cause "uneven" power within the circuit.
Computers are quite sensitive to "uneven" power. I highly recommend
adding a battery backup device to your computer for protection. These
devices, also known as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), provide
your computer with good surge/spike/brownout protection, better than
most surge suppressors or protectors. Additionally, they provide backup
power - by battery - for at least five minutes in case of a power
outage. A warning signal is given and you have five minutes to shut down
the computer properly.
Many models are now available for between $150.00 - $500.00. They are
rated by voltage amps (VA). Check your computer manual for details. For
a single home or office computer, a 200 or 250VA model is sufficient.
All other equipment such as telephones, calculators, TVs, stereos, etc.
should be protected by a good surge protector with a "let-through" of no
more than 300 volts. These protectors cost between $30.00 - $70.00 and
provide surge protection without battery backup.
Some companies such as American Power Conversion (APC) provide two-year
warranties on their products. APC also provides an equipment protection
policy. They insure equipment plugged into their protection device with
values between $10,000 to $50,000 - depending upon the product model.
Visit the APC website at http:\\www.apcc.com. You can find their
products at any computer or office supplies superstore.