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Frequently Asked Questions
Viruses, Trojan Horses & Hoaxes


Q: What are viruses?
A: Viruses are usually small programs written by naughty programmers to wreck havoc on you hard drive. The name "virus" is just a term. Viruses are not "diseases". They are just executables.

Q: What trouble can a virus create?
A: It depends. Sometimes, it is just turns you screen upside down. Others will just give you a small scare like weird error messages. Some will ruin your files, making them usable or "infected". The worse viruses will format you hard drive.

Q: How do I know when my computer is infected?
A: You will usually know when you computer acts funny, display weird messages, files usable or frequent missing files. Effects may vary

Q: Can I track down the virus?
A: Yes and no. Viruses are after all, just mere executables (or programs). They can be traced down and deleted. But throughout the years, virus writers are getting smarter. The virus can usually hide from being seen or able to mutate. That means the same virus will contain different binary codes and able to jump around on your hard drive making tracking it down next to impossible.

Q: What is the best way to prevent viruses?
A: There are 2 ways: 

  • Never ever boot from an unknown floppy disk. If you boot from a floppy disk containing a virus, the virus will automatically get into your hard drive. Always scan a borrowed disk. Also make sure you eject your floppy before shutting down to prevent from accidentally booting from the floppy.
  • Get a decent antivirus program like Mcaffee, Norton Anti-virus, Solomon or PcCillin. The program should be used regularly for routine checks. Nearly all antivirus programs will run in background. Always check download files before opening them.

Q: Does that means I won't get infected if I follow the steps stated above?
A: No computer will be fully "immune" to viruses. More intelligent viruses will still be able to avoid being tracked by virus scanners by mutation. Furthermore, new viruses are created every month. Your virus scanner might not be able to detect newer viruses. That is why it is a good idea to download new virus patterns from your anti-virus program site to update your program.


Trojan Horses

Q: What are Trojan Horses?
A: Unlike viruses, trojan horses are actually programs that pretend to do something good while doing some unknown or illegal activity in the background.

Q: So what's the difference between a trojan horse and a virus?
A: Usually, trojan horses aren't so smart. They will reside on a certain location of your hard drive and won't mutate. They are also usually not hidden. But it will be quite a chore to track down the trojan horse.

Q: Can I have an example or what a trojan horse can do?
A: Here is a good example. Nearly a year ago, some porn sites distributed a program to let users "view" porn pictures. The utility can only be used online. Unknown to them, the utility actually allows the site owner to use long distance call through the user's computer. The user finds himself facing an expensive phone bill.

Q: So how does a trojan horse work?
A: Like the name itself, a trojan horse usually is a small program hidden within a file. When you activate the program, the trojan horse will be copied out, hides itself somewhere and start it's activity.

Q: What are damages a trojan horse can do?
A: Unlike viruses, you seldom find program which contains a trojan horses to format you hard drive. A virus is much more convenient. Rather, light-humour programmers will usually make it as a joke like giving you a scare during April Fool's day or Halloween. But usually trojan horses are more towards using a victim's computer for the user's use. For example, a nasty "friend" might be have a trojan horse in your system to enable him to have access to your computer when you are online. The last thing you want is some porn photos in your hard drive or your missing.

Q: Is there anyway to stop or prevent a trojan horse?
A: Prevention sure is better than cure here. Tracking down a trojan horse is a bit trickier than a virus. Since trojan horses don't actually infect files or do damage to your hard drives, most anti-virus softwares can't track down trojan horses. So never simply open files that your friends passed around. They might just be harmful. Maybe they themselves don't know the damage it can cause.

Q: I think there is a trojan horse running in my hard drive. What can I do?
A: Most trojan horses can't escape the task manager. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to see the list of programs running. Some trojan horses will only appear when you are online. Select End Task. Now try to search your entire hard drive for the trojan horse. Delete it once found.



Hoax: A virus can damage your computer.
Truth: A virus will only affect hard drives. There is no way a virus can damage your hardware. But be cautious of the new CIH virus. It can re-write your CMOS and making your whole computer unable to start.

Hoax: if you receive a mail with the title "Win a holiday" don't open it but delete it because you it will erase your hard drive.......
Truth: The mail hoaxes are starting to get darn popular. Remember, a mail is just a mail. No programming codes attached. A plain e-mail will never do anything harmful. But you should check attachments in the mail for viruses before opening it.

Hoax: Your hard drive will be infected by viruses if you touch the magnetic field of the disk or if the disk is dusty.
Truth: Your hard drive might be damaged the disk is dusty or you touch the magnetic field but it definitely won't be infected by viruses. Computer viruses are just programs - they aren't real organisms


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