Zyra's website //// Misconceptions //// Antivirus software //// Anti-virus Preventative Measures //// Site Index

Virus Information and Misconceptions

I'll tell you about why people send viruses, some of the misconceptions to do with computer viruses, what virus writers might have to gain, and an insight into some of the mistaken beliefs about the causes of computer virus problems. A long page maybe, but worth reading...

Computer viruses have been around for a long while and could be defeated by having operating systems written properly with sensible security. With a proper operating system, (not Microsoft), it's possible to prevent viruses by avoiding security holes. In open-source systems such as Linux, the computer software is available and visible to all, so it's possible to detect and eliminate vulnerabilities, whereas in the secret bugridden world it's anyone's guess where the problems are.

Virus detection can be done by holistic methods, because of the fundamental computer science involved. This is a bit like detecting thieves and shoplifters by watching the behaviour of people and seeing if they steal something. If they steal, then they can be apprehended. In contrast, modern virus detectors don't do that. They do the equivalent of having a book of mug-shots of all the local criminals and just watch to see if any of them are recognised. It doesn't take a lot of doing to work out that the upshot of this is that criminals might start wearing disguises, and that the security will fail to recognise anyone new to the criminal fraternity, and also that the security companies can make money by selling books of the latest gallery of mug-shots.

One myth of computer viruses is that they are mainly spread from one computer to another like an infectious disease such as the common cold. Whilst this is one way viruses can be spread, it's not the main vector of virus infection. I have evidence which proves this, as I have discontinued a large number of e-mail addresses and then monitored them. Most viruses arrive to these long-dead addresses. These are not being harvested by individual browsing computers, as some of the dead addresses have been gone over a year. So, what's happening is that viruses are being spread by the perpetrators deliberately scattering viruses using bulk e-mail sending to huge lists of harvested e-mail addresses by spam. So, whoever is doing this? It's a mistaken belief that viruses are sent by some kind of hacker/vandal who works alone, isolated, and untraceable. Not so. It's an organised racket.

Who sends viruses? Why do they send viruses? What do they hope to gain by sending viruses? Speculations include "The Government" (who of course don't like the Internet and would prefer it if we returned to an age of ignorance where we'd be easier to rule over), "Anti-Virus Software Companies", (who, in the style of some medieval ratcatchers, make more money if there are plenty of viruses about), "Terrorists", (who are just a nuisance and like to think they are furthering whatever cause they believe in by being an annoyance).

There is another explanation of the motives of virus senders can be seen in some of the more recent attacks and which may help to explain the seemingly pointless business of virus spreading. Here's how it works: The originators of the virus send it out and infect as many computers as possible. These then become conscript footsoldiers in a vast army in cyberspace. Then, at a carefully chosen moment, when the commander issues the order, all of the conscripts fire their pea-shooters at whatever target has been selected. This might be some company or other, someone the originator doesn't like, any specific target. Although each recruited computer out there can't do much damage to whatever giant corporation has been targeted, the fact that there are millions of them all shooting simultaneously can result in the target being stonkered. That's known as a DDoS, Deliberate Denial of Service.

Another idea along the lines of "what do virus writers have to gain?" is seen in the problem of spyware. This is usually just a form of naff advertising where various dishonest companies attempt to hijack your computer so they can bombard you with loads of silly pop-up adverts.

Another thing which invasive computer viruses try to do is to steal your private information. They are keen to get your bank details so they get steal money or pretend to be you. Most of this goes on by phishing rather than hacking into your machine. In other words, trying to fool you with ridiculous messages pretending to be from your bank. These things can usually be defeated by having some commonsense.

See How to Stop Annoying Pop-Ups and How to defeat SPYWARE, and also, if you find your browser homepage has been hijacked, How to Change your Homepage to whatever YOU want. Note: If your homepage changes back to Munky, Xupiter, or LuckySurf.net or whatever it is, your computer has caught a nasty case of Spyware, in which case it's best treated by this kind of thing: spyware killers. There's also some preventative advice on how to avoid viruses: Antivirus Measures, even without installing any antivirus software. If you think you might have got any of these problems, don't forget to save/bookmark this page in case you need it later !