Please Explain: Computer Viruses and Worms

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week’s Please Explain is about computer worms and viruses. Richard Ford, from the Center for Security Science at the Florida Institute of Technology, and Lance Ulanoff, Editor in Chief of PC Magazine, tell us how viruses and worms are created, how they infiltrate individual computers, explain the damage they can wreak and how we can best protect our machines.


Richard Ford and Lance Ulanoff

Comments [21]



Mar. 06 2011 05:44 PM
becca from brooklyn

Norton was fine for every day but when I was attacked with something serious everything got thru. im talking about 30 viruses at once.

When i called Norton for help they told me i needed to be a more responsible computer user and would charge me 100bucks for any more help. they also instructed me to download strange free internet solutions to clean my computer.
it didn't work and i needed to go to Little Laptop Shop to have my computer scrubbed clean. I lost a lot.
I would never recommend Norton to anyone...and id like to believe i am a responsible, cautious computer user.

Jan. 21 2011 02:04 PM

@ericf, ClamAV is free, but it's not that great. I haven't used a desktop version in years... but from what I saw, it lacked the "real-time" scanning feature of most commercial AV solutions (meaning, it will detect viruses during a scan, but not when you're about to open them).

Most people use ClamAV for scanning incoming mail on Unix servers to check for malicious emails.

Jan. 21 2011 02:00 PM
Lauren from Park Slope

MAC Question! I have had Apple computers in my home for about 5 years and have NEVER used any form of internet security or protection software - is this crazy? I was always told Mac's don't need it.

Jan. 21 2011 01:57 PM

please comment on the clam family of virus scanners.

Jan. 21 2011 01:56 PM

While Windows is the main target of many viruses, it has had many years of work done to make it more complicated to exploit. While Mac OS X and Linux were less vulnerable years ago, they are just coasting by on their reputation and their lack of marketshare compared to Windows (they're not a big target). Apple is eventually going to have to face the music when people start writing more viruses for their platform.

Windows users might want to check out Microsoft's Security Essentials package (a free antivirus package from MS) if they are in need of an antivirus package (or are using a very old one that they don't have new updates for).

Jan. 21 2011 01:53 PM
Bellissimo from The Upper West Side

How many anti-virus or spy/adware tools are needed to efficiently solve these issues? Would one of each suffice?

Jan. 21 2011 01:50 PM
dboy from nyc

Are Macs™ as immune as they claim???

Jan. 21 2011 01:49 PM

Worth noting that we have Members of Congress who have _opposed_ legislation against spam and against viruses, phishing, etc., because ... some corporations like banks and advertisers were eager to be able to spy on us.

Also worth noting that some companies, like NetZero, tried to impose user agreements to _require_ users to allow provider-installed programs to run -- to co-opt compute cycles, computing time, for their own purposes (which, of course, included allowing third parties to buy time from NetZero or whomever for distributed computing).

Jan. 21 2011 01:49 PM

Not sure if anyone has asked this yet, but can your guests comment on both the best free and paid security software available?

Jan. 21 2011 01:48 PM
Bellissimo from THE Upper West Side

How many anti-virus or spy/adware tools are needed to efficiently solve these issues? Would one of each suffice?

Jan. 21 2011 01:48 PM

How effective is Microsoft's security Essentials as compared to other anti virus programs such as norton or avg?

Jan. 21 2011 01:45 PM
Bill from westchester

when you're at a hotel using their network is your computer open to getting any viruses or spyware

Jan. 21 2011 01:45 PM
jim from brooklyn

I use macs, but my parents use a pc.. it seems like all the virus scanning software is actually making the computer slow. I dont want to turn them off but it seems like the solution may be worse than the problem...

Jan. 21 2011 01:42 PM
Armando from Brazil

I have been using linux for 5 years. Never had a virus problem since them.

Jan. 21 2011 01:42 PM
greg from nyc

How often do the creators of the viruses, malware etc... get discovered? What legislation is in place to punish these A-holes?

Jan. 21 2011 01:41 PM

Trojan horses are dead? Give me a break! Anyone who plays World of Warcraft and uses addons, specifically the Curse Client for installing them, very likely has a keylogger on their computer, which the "hacker" then uses to steal their account etc. I learned that the hard way.

Jan. 21 2011 01:37 PM

please discuss whether or not viruses or virus like algorithms can be put to constructive use.

Jan. 21 2011 01:32 PM
Estelle from Austin

Could you please talk about operating systems, and how they compare/contrast in terms of virus susceptibility? For example, Windows vs. Linux, and the old Mac OSs vs. the new Mac OSs (which I've heard are more susceptible).

How do you back up your files on an external drive without backing up your viruses too?

Jan. 21 2011 01:26 PM
rob from Bay Ridge NY

if the Apple claim, that MacOS is by default immune to viruses, why there are companies producing antivirus software for this platform?
how secure are Linux releases?

Jan. 21 2011 01:13 PM
j from bkln

can you discuss some virus prevention i just read @ at [valleywag] via the 2nd commentor, 'bens', if you expand the replies below the first one there. [12 at the time i'm posting this question]

he mentions Hitman, clamxav and Kapersky.

can you compare and Explain? Please? thank you.

Jan. 21 2011 04:00 AM

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