ZoneAlarm Asks – How Are Computer Viruses Spread By Mainstream Media?

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If you listen and believe everything you hear in the media, there seems to be an awful lot of viruses going around. No, not the human body type, but the viruses that enter via the internet and play havoc on your computers operating system. Oh yes that type.

What mainstream media, radio, print or television news reports often don’t bother telling you is that the majority of these so called “viruses” are not really viruses at all. They would rather capitalize on the sensationalism.

So What Really Are Computer Viruses
One of the main reasons why the mass media will always raise alarm bells about viruses is because they will just group any ‘malicious’ type of computer program and call it a virus. In reality, there are at last count eleven or so distinct types of malicious programs, better known as malware affecting computers out there today. The most common of these types are known as worms, Trojans, and spyware, yes they do sound nasty.

So, is there and what’s the difference between certain computer viruses and other types of malware? Malicious computer viruses are solely responsible and capable of completely shutting down a computer and cause obvious damage to the hard drive. The most common types of malware, including: worms, Trojans, and spyware are detectable only using specialized scanning software.

So What Are The Real Danger of Computer Viruses
Most types of malware are unobtrusive and does not really harm your computer, so much so in fact that as mentioned, they can only be detected using special scanning software. So you’re wondering, what’s the big concern then? Well for starters, these class of programs are called ‘malicious’ for a good reason. They actually can and are designed to cause some type of damage on your computer.

Worms are known to cause extensive damage. They are capable of disrupting and destroying entire computer networks, if these ‘worms’ are planted on the host computer. For example, worms have been known to be used by rival website owners to shut down another website by sending say an overwhelming amount of requests to the computers server that happens to host that website, thus shutting it down. Worms are also capable of sending out viruses to other computers by infecting the host computer, thus effectively killing the network.

Trojans can be evil as well. They are often downloaded onto your computer without you knowing, which in turn inserts and spreads worms and malware on your computer. This can happen even if the Trojan itself doesn’t do any damage.

Okay, so you don’t care about what happens to someone else’s computer? You should then still be concerned about another other kind of malware: which is known as spyware. Spyware is a type of malware that, collects data from your computers hard drive and silently sends it back to the remote host.

Most spyware is however interested in only monitoring your internet usage or preferences, so it can communicate with other programs, such as adware, which decides what type of advertising ‘pops-up’ on your computer. However, there are malicious types of criminal spyware programs out there capable of stealing say, financial data or rifles through your personal data to perform identity theft. We all have some type of critical personal data stored on our computers. Some spyware programs contain what is known as a keylogger, a program that simply copies every keystroke, usually designed to grab passwords. Even if you don’t keep financial information on your computer, if you ever do any online shopping, the keylogger can retrieve your credit card number and address.

So Why NOT Blame the Media?
Given the various dangers of all these different types of malware, the mass media just feeds to the hysteria of it all. They do this by grouping the various types under one umbrella… and call worms, Trojans, spyware, and other malware “viruses”.

What all this does is just a classic case of bad news reporting that does more harm than good. It promotes a common myth about ‘viruses’ that goes something like this: “The only type of malicious software is called a virus. What viruses do is damage your computer. Therefore, if your computer is working OK, then that must mean your computer has no malicious software. And you only need to scan your computer for ‘viruses’ only when there is a problem.”

Because of this, most computer owners allow their anti-virus software to go out of date or expire, not bothering to update. What is just as bad is most computers don’t have the proper software to combat the different types of malware that’s not covered by the anti-virus software.

The best fix is when the mainstream media start educating the public about the importance of their computers being scanned at least once a day. Preventative maintenance is what’s required rather than running hysteria stories about evil “viruses”. But that’s the nature of the media which is to spread fear, as they will sell more newspapers and TV advertising space that way.

Keep Evil Away From Your PC

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