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What's the difference between a Virus and a Worm?
by Tonna Kutner

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Q: What’s the difference between a Virus and a Worm and how can I keep my computer safe from them?

A:  “Virus” has become a generic term that includes all the malicious ways your computer can be attacked.  Viruses are distributed by making copies of themselves or replication.  Sometimes the replication itself causes damage to your hard disk.  Sometimes the accumulative effect of replicating again and again disables the computer.  Sometimes the energy used by replication takes over the system and there’s no computer energy left.  Here’s a short list of different kinds of computer diseases:

A Virus is a program that piggy-backs on other programs. It can be attached to a Word or Excel file.  Each time the file is run, the virus runs too.  It attaches itself to other programs and continues to reproduce.

An Email virus is a special type of virus sent as an attachment to an email message.  It replicates by automatically mailing itself to everyone in the recipients email address book. 

A Worm uses computer networks to replicate itself.  It searches for servers with security holes and copies itself there.  It then begins the search and replication process again.

A Trojan Horse is a computer program masquerading as a game or a “cute” program.  However, when it runs it does something else - like erasing your hard drive or blocking your screen with a graphic will not go away.

Some viruses use several of these in combination to replicate themselves.  It is disturbing that people actually spend large amounts of time and creative energy putting these devious things together.  But they do and will continue to do so.  The best protection is to get an anti-virus program and install it BEFORE you have any virus problems.  Too many people find out they have a virus only after sending it off to all their friends and business associates.  It’s simply not worth the risk.  Norton and McAfee are the most common anti-virus programs for home and small business use.  Be sure to install the updates regularly.  If you have an old version, get updated.  New viruses are being created every day, it is important to keep your anti-virus software up to date.  When your anti-virus program pops up and tells you it has detected a virus, always choose the option to fix it.

Here are some tips on recognizing viruses in email attachments:

Once you were safe from viruses if email attachments were not opened, however, this is no longer true.  Make sure you have the most current updates from Microsoft for your operating system.   These are patches for holes that virus creators exploit in the Windows operating system.  Select "Windows Update" from your menu system and follow the directions.   If you have a dial up connection, this can be very tedious, but it's worth the effort.

Most viruses come from opening an attachment that comes with an email.  Basically, don’t open an attachment that comes from someone you don’t know.  If it’s from someone you know, stop and think.  Does it have a reasonable introduction in the email?  If the email contains nothing but the attachment or only has a brief note like “I’d like your advice on this” or “Here’s something cool” it is suspect.  If the attachment is an executable file (ends in .exe or .com), it is also suspect.  Don’t open suspect attachments. 

This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by WHG Team.

If you have a computer question you would like answered in this space, send it to tonna@computer-lynx.com.

For past columns of Tips from Tonna, check out the web site: www.computer-lynx.com.

Tonna Kutner, Computer LYNX, works with companies to list and develop their web sites.  Phone (206) 575-3979 or email tonna@computer-lynx.com. Visit Tonna’s website at www.computer-lynx.com.

Printed in "Verve"  November  2001. Copyright Tonna Kutner

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