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Computer viruses FAQ



Frequently Asked Questions about computer viruses.

This FAQ about computer viruses was compiled and written by David Harley D.Harley@icrf.icnet.uk, George Wenzel gwenzel@telusplanet.net and Bruce Burrell bpb@umich.edu with numerous contributions by others.

Copyright Notice

Copyright on all contributions to this FAQ remains with the authors and all rights are reserved. It may, however, be freely distributed and quoted - accurately, and with due credit.

It may not be reproduced for profit or distributed in part or as a whole with any product or service for which a charge is made, except with the prior permission of the copyright holders. To obtain such permission, please contact one of the co-maintainers of the FAQ.

Such permission will normally be forthcoming as long as
(1) reproduced text is quoted accurately
(2) it is made clear that such text is derived from the FAQ
(3) it is made clear that the latest version of the FAQ is available
from the newsgroup and from the official home of the FAQ on the world-wide web, which is currently http://www.sherpasoft.org.uk/acvFAQ/
(4) the e-mail addresses of all co-maintainers of the FAQ are included as a contact point.

The FAQ is also available at:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/computer-virus/alt-faq/

Credits/Acknowledgements

The following have contributed text and/or ideas and/or proofreading/corrections and/or URLs to the a.c.v. FAQ.

Vesselin Bontchev, Dennis Boon, Bruce Burrell, Graham Cluley, Henri Delger, Edward Fenton, Nicola Ferri, Sarah Gordon, David Harley, R. Wallace Hale, Norman Hirsch, Matthew Holtz, Jan Hruska, Mikko H. Hypponen, Douglas A. Kaufman, Tom Kelchner, Paul Kerrigan, Chengi (Jimmy) Kuo, Susan Lesch, Gerard Mannig, Martin Overton, Mike Ramey, Perry Rovers, Tom Simondi, Megan Skinner, Fridrik Skulason, Robert Slade, Alan Solomon, Ken Stieers, Hector Ugalde, George Wenzel, Caroline Wilson, and Tarkan Yetiser.

[Apologies to anyone who's fallen off the list.]

Acknowledgement is also due to the work of Ken Van Wyk, former moderator of VIRUS-L/comp.virus, and the contributors to the comp.virus FAQ.

Thanks also to ked@intac.com (aka Phreex), who mailed me a copy of the FAQ he posted to a.c.v. some months before this one was begun, David J. Loundy for assistance regarding legal issues, and to Nick FitzGerald, the moderator of comp.virus and maintainer of the comp.virus FAQ.

-1) I have a virus problem - what do I do? (Computer virus)
The following guidelines will, one hopes, be of assistance. However,...
-2) Minimal Glossary (Computer virus)
[There is room for improvement and expansion here. ...
-3) What is a virus (and what are Trojans and Worms)? (Computer virus)
A (computer) virus is a program (a block of executable code) ...
-4) How do viruses work? (Computer virus)
A file virus attaches itself to a file (but see the section ...
-5) How do viruses spread? (Computer virus)
A PC is infected with a boot sector virus (or partition ...
-6) How can I avoid infection? (Computer virus)
There is no way to guarantee that you will avoid infection. However,...
-7) How does antivirus software work?
* Scanner (conventional scanner, command-line scanner, on-...
-8) What's the best anti-virus software (and where do I get it)?
In case it's not absolutely clear from the following, it simply isn'...
-9) Where can I get further information? (Computer virus)
The following sites are not regularly checked. Please advise ...
-10) Does anyone know about Mac viruses?
David Harley co-maintains (with Susan Lesch) a FAQ on Mac/virus ...
-10) Does anyone know about UNIX viruses?
In general, there are virtually no non-experimental UNIX viruses....
-10) Does anyone know about macro viruses?
Macro viruses and trojans are specific to certain ...
-10) Does anyone know about The AOLgold virus?
This was actually a trojan. Information is available on ...
-10) Does anyone know about the PKZip trojan virus?
Most of us prefer to distinguish between trojans and viruses (see ...
-10) Does anyone know about xyz PC virus?
There are several thousand known PC viruses, and the number 'in ...
-10) Does anyone know about the Psychic Neon Buddha Jesus virus?
This is an allegedly humorous bit of javascript programming that ...
-10) Does anyone know about the blem wit virus?
See the Virus-L FAQ. Basically, it's a mangled message that may ...
-10) Does anyone know about The Irina Virus?
Publicity stunt generated by Penguin Books to promote their ...
-10) Does anyone know about GHOST
Just a screensaver...... More info in the CIAC bulletin ...
-10) Does anyone know about General Info on Hoaxes/Erroneous Alerts
The CIAC updated bulletion mentioned several times above ...
-11) Is it true that....? (Computer virus)
(*or* some favourite hoaxes...)...
-12) DOS file attributes protect executable files from infection (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
File attributes are set by software, and can therefore ...
-12) I'm safe from viruses because I don't use bulletin boards/shareware/ Public Domain software. (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
Many of the most widely-spread viruses are Boot Sector Infectors,...
-12) FDISK /MBR fixes boot sector viruses. (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
The mark II comp.virus FAQ is worth reading on this (see Part ...
-12) Write protecting suspect floppies stops infection. (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
This sounds so silly I hesitate to include it. I've never seen it ...
-12) The write protect tab always stops a disk write (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
Briefly, write protection is built into the hardware on the Mac ...
-12) I can infect my system by running DIR on an infected disk (Favourite myths - Computer virus)
If you have a clean PC system, you can't contract a boot sector ...
-13) What are the Legal Implications of Computer Viruses?
**********************************************************************...
-13) What are the Legal Implications of Computer Viruses? USA & Canada
-13) What are the Legal Implications of Computer Viruses? The Canadian Criminal Code
-13) What are the Legal Implications of Computer Viruses? UK
-14) Are there anti-virus packages which check zipped/archived files?
More and more anti-virus programs are scanning within zipped, ...
-14) What's the genb/genp virus?
This is McAfee-ese for You may have an unrecognised ('generic')...
-14) Where do I get VCL and an assembler, & what's the password?
Wrong FAQ. You don't learn anything about viruses, ...
-14) Send me a virus
Anti-virus researchers don't usually share viruses with ...
-14) It said in a review.... (Computer virus)
Reviews in the general computing press are rarely useful. ...
-14) Is it viruses, virii or what?
The Latin root of virus has no commonly used plural form. Since the ...
-14) Where is alt.comp.virus archived?
It isn't, as far as anyone seems to know. No-one currently working ...
-14) What about firewalls? (Computer virus)
Firewalls don't generally screen computer viruses, though some ...
-14) Viruses on CD-ROM
Viruses have been distributed on CD ROM (for instance, ...
-14) Removing viruses (Computer virus)
It is always better from a security point of view to replace ...
-14) Can't viruses sometimes be useful? (Computer virus)
Vesselin Bontchev wrote a respected paper on this subject:...
-14) Do I have a virus, and how do I know? (Computer virus)
Almost anything odd a computer may do can (and has been)...
-14) What should be on a (clean) boot disk?
A boot floppy is one which contains the basic operating system, so ...
-14) How do I know I have a clean boot disk?
You can't usually make up a clean boot disk on a system which has ...
-14) What other tools might I need? (Computer virus)
Other suggestions have included a sector editor, and Norton ...
-14) What are rescue disks?
Many antivirus and disk repair utilities can make up a (...
-14) Are there CMOS viruses?
Although a virus CAN write to (and corrupt) a PC's CMOS memory, ...
-14) How do I know I'm FTP-ing 'good' software? (Computer virus)
Reputable sites like SimTel and Garbo check uploaded utilities ...
-14) What is 386SPART.PAR? (Computer virus)
People are sometimes alarmed at finding they have a hidden ...
-14) Can I get a virus to test my antivirus package with?
Well, I won't send you one... Most packages have some means of ...
-14) When I do DIR | MORE I see a couple of files with funny names... (Computer virus)
Actually, this is in the Virus-L FAQ. Read that and post the ...
-14) Reasons NOT to use FDISK /MBR (Computer virus)
See Section 12 in part 2 of this FAQ for further information about ...
-14) Why do people write/spread viruses?
- From postings which have appeared in alt.comp.virus in the past:...
-14) Where can I get an anti-virus policy?
There is some relevant material in the Virus-L FAQ document, but you'...
-14) Are there virus damage statistics? (Computer virus)
Some, possibly even less reliable than the average survey on ...
-14) What is ICSA Approval? (Computer virus)
The ICSA has a certification program for PC virus scanners which ...
-14) What language should I write a virus in? (Computer virus)
Choose your own squelch:...
-14) [DRD], Doren Rosenthal, the Universe and Everything (Computer virus)
Doren Rosenthal offers a shareware utilities suite including ...
-14) What are CARO and EICAR? (Computer virus)
CARO - Computer Anti-Virus Research Organisation. Invitation-...









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