Viruses, Spy Ware and Firewalls

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A virus is a type of software that "infects" computers. It's typically inserted into a program, and when that program is executed, the virus activates.  Viruses can infect immediately, or on a specified date. They can affect single desktops, or spread to entire networks, servers and Web sites. While many viruses are just pranks or annoyances, others are more complex. Viruses can destroy data, corrupt programs so that they no longer run, steal passwords and infect address books.

Spyware is like a virus in that it is an unwanted program that runs on your computer. However, it does not try to replicate itself to other machines. Infection usually occurs when it is installed alongside another program such as a peer to peer file sharing application. However, increasingly, spyware is blending with viruses making it harder to eradicate and harder to avoid.

There are different types of spyware; some are more damaging than others.

Spyware can do a lot:

  • Pop-up unwanted advertisements, including offensive material
  • Block access to certain websites
  • Try to get you to shut down anti-virus or anti-spyware defenses
  • Block updates to these defenses
  • Scan your hard disk for private data such as credit card numbers
  • Log the keys you type scanning for passwords or credit card numbers
  • Take screen shots of the sites you visit to capture personal information
  • Upload this information to criminals over the internet.

Prevention tips:

  • Keep your Antivirus / Spyware software up-to-date
  • Avoid running attachments (especially .EXE files) that come in your e-mail, even if they come from your friends, relatives or colleagues
  • Use a firewall
  • Get the latest windows updates
  • Make frequent backups of your data files and keep some of your backups out of your computer 
  • Conduct Information Technology Risk Assessments.

Firewalls Help Keep You Safe

Because the internet is a public network, any connected computer can find and connect to any other connected computer. A firewall is a barrier between the public internet and your private computer system. Think of it as a really paranoid bouncer who stops anyone coming into your computer if they’re not on the guest list.

A firewall isn’t sufficient on its own to guarantee security, but it is the first line of defense.

A firewall provides limited or no protection against:

  • If you give permission for other computers to connect to yours
  • If it is switched off, disabled or contains many exceptions or open ports
  • Against most viruses
  • Against spam
  • Against spyware installations
  • Against any kind of fraud or criminal activity online
  • If you or a virus has created a back door through the firewall
  • If a hacker has the password for the firewall
  • Against people with physical access to your computer or network
  • Against malicious traffic that does not travel through it, for example via a poorly configured wireless network
  • Against attacks after a network has been compromised
  • Against traffic that appears to be legitimate.