There comes a time when almost everyone thinks twice about laying down the bucks for a Norton or MacAfee Upgrade. Is there really a threat out there, or is it all hype by the software companies trying to scare us into buying their software.
Sadly, the answer is yes, unequivocally yes, there are viruses out there, a lot of them; just last year the London Times reported that the number of active computer viruses had topped one million. And there are a lot of people busily developing new ones as you read this. Recent statistics have shown that as much as thirty percent of all e-mails sent across the Internet are launched by viruses that have taken over someone’s computer and e-mail account, quite often without the owner ever being aware. The situation is so dire that the FBI has set up a cyber division to “address cybercrime in a coordinated and cohesive manner.”
The good news is that most modern viruses are created for the purpose of stealing information, rather than destroying it; if you can call that good news. The bad news is that it has become so easy to create a virus now that virtually anyone can download the necessary tools, create a new virus and release it, all in just a few minutes time. This means, for example, someone visiting your home for a picnic perhaps, could get on your computer, write a virus and release it, leaving a trail back to you.
The question most people ask after finding their computer infected is, why? Why do people write viruses? Why do they unleash them on others? What is their deal?
Well, believe it or not, some studies have been done and it seems there are a variety of reasons a person might have for becoming a virus writer. The biggest seems to be because it gives people who feel they have no control over their lives a way of wresting some control back without having to actually do anything in their real lives. Another reason is because there are people who are politically motivated or are angry at Microsoft or other big software or computer companies. They want to hurt them, by hurting their customers. Finally, there are people out there who just want to feel superior to others by writing viruses that only infect if someone on the other end does something, like click on an attachment to an e-mail, or a picture on a web site. In these scenarios, the person is actually infecting themselves through their own actions.
Next, people generally want to know if they (their computer) are safe. The answer to this one is, it depends on how diligent they are. Just as people who wash their hands a lot and don’t touch stuff that people with biological viruses have touched, are less prone to catching a virus, so too are people who install anti-virus software on their computers, keep them up to date, don’t click on attachments in e-mails from people they don’t know and avoid questionable web sites, particularly those peddling smutty stuff. Also, it should be noted that it is true that those people using computers from Apple or other companies that run operating systems not from Microsoft are relatively safe simply because there are so few of them compared to the standard Windows, which means the virus writer won’t get much of a bang for their efforts.
Finally, what sort of things can happen to you and your computer if you do get infected? The answer depends on what sort of virus or attack you experience. …