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Offices & Services > Information Technology Services > Viruses and Spyware

More on Computer Viruses

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History and Background

The growth of the Internet and the use of e-mail have dramatically increased the variety and spread of viruses. When PC viruses first began to spread in the 1980s they were written in assembler code and could only infect program files. In the 1990s macro languages (for Microsoft Word, Excel and Access) provided an easier alternative and resulted in the ability to also infect data files. Currently writers of virus programs are also making use of the capabilities of Visual Basic, Active X and Java to write viruses that can be embedded in web pages and e-mail messages. The greatest number of prolific viruses damaging computing communities world wide have been written to attack the Microsoft Windows operating systems and other Microsoft applications such as the Office suite. One of the major reasons for this concentration is the large market share that Microsoft holds in the computing world. Being such a large target is enticing to virus authors since they know that they may be able to affect the greatest number of computers.

Windows Operating Systems

This large market share is clearly represented at Knox. PCs running one of the Windows operating systems make up the largest percentage of computers on the Knox campus. Due to this fact and the fact that Windows based viruses are so common, it is absolutely imperative that all of these computers are properly updated and protected (see the AntiVirus Policy). In the event that an unprotected computer is infected, Knox will take the appropriate actions to isolate the computer until the problem has been resolved.

Macintosh Operating Systems

Although some of the most well known and damaging viruses will not damage or infect a Macintosh computer, they are still susceptible to certain viruses. Cross-platform viruses, referred to as macro viruses, affect your Microsoft Office documents regardless of platform. Also, Macintoshes running a Windows partition are open to any/all Windows based viruses on that partition. Since it is more likely that a Macintosh virus may go undetected for a longer period of time by the campus network, it is imperative that Macintosh users protect themselves and their data by keeping their machines properly updated and protected (see the AntiVirus Policy). In the event that an unprotected computer is infected, Knox will take the appropriate actions to isolate the computer until the problem has been resolved.

Operating System Updates

Additionally, many viruses and worms take advantage of identified vulnerabilities within operating systems. Microsoft and Apple release patches to fix these known problems on a regular basis but many users neglect to install them. These patches are distributed through Windows Update on Windows and Software Update on Macintosh. Unlike many e-mail borne viruses requiring the user to open an attachment, many of the operating system exploit viruses infect vulnerable machines by simply connecting to the Internet. Microsoft Windows computers are required to install all critical updates issued by Microsoft as they become available. Please note that the latest service packs are included in the required critical updates. Macintosh computers are required to install all security updates issued by Apple.

Other Operating Systems

As other operating systems such as LINUX, BeOS and the like have come on the scene, they have become a target for some well written virus-like programs. Due to the nature of many of these operating systems, there are some basic operation management policies that may cut down on vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, as these operating systems emerge and become more appealing for sophisticated virus authors, it is becoming more important that users of these operating systems understand how to patch holes, update files and generally "guard" their systems. Since it is more likely that a virus may go undetected for a longer period of time by the campus network, it is imperative that these OS users protect themselves and their data by keeping their machines properly updated and protected (see the AntiVirus Policy). In the event that an unprotected computer is infected, Knox will take the appropriate actions to isolate the computer until the problem has been resolved.


Knox College

http://www.knox.edu/offices/information-technology-services/virus-prevention/about-viruses

Printed on Thursday, December 18, 2014