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Roman Wanderaugh's Travel Tips - Part 3 - WHAT IS A COMPUTER VIRUS?

Roman Wanderaugh - National Radio Text Service



Viruses are sometimes confused with computer worms and Trojan horses, which are technically different. A worm can exploit security vulnerabilities to spread itself to other computers without needing to be transferred as part of a host, and a Trojan horse is a program that appears harmless but has a hidden agenda


Wednesday September 2, 2009



A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without the permission or knowledge of the owner. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, adware, and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability. A true virus can only spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive.

Viruses can increase their chances of spreading to other computers by infecting files on a network file system or a file system that is accessed by another computer.

The term "computer virus" is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase to include all types of malware. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware, and other malicious and unwanted software), including true viruses.

Viruses are sometimes confused with computer worms and Trojan horses, which are technically different. A worm can exploit security vulnerabilities to spread itself to other computers without needing to be transferred as part of a host, and a Trojan horse is a program that appears harmless but has a hidden agenda.

Worms and Trojans, like viruses, may cause harm to either a computer system's hosted data, functional performance, or networking throughput, when they are executed. Some viruses and other malware have symptoms noticeable to the computer user, but many are surreptitious.


The AUTO RUN and RECYCLER viruses are common in the region. We have had it on our flash drives numerous times but after we check it doesn't show up as a virus. After we run a virus check we then open the flash on THEIR EQUIPMENT and look in the RESULTS file. That is where it shows up in the Symantec and Kaspersky anti virus programs. We then delete it. We also check the flash AGAIN with our anti virus program before opening it on our computers.

We also caught the virus on a flash with only one document on it that was printed at Diamond Internet on Monivong near the Central Market. We did not use their computers but the employee printed it from their computer. After printing we opened the flash and AUTO RUN and RECYCLER were on the flash. We then had it FORMATTED. We expected the problem which is why there was only one document on the flash.

McAfee recently released some information regarding the AUTO RUN virus. An Internet Cafe that has virus problems and AUTO RUN was given a copy of the McAfee report and their reaction was that they could care less.

Attack vectors

AutoRun functionality has been used as a malware vector for some time. Prior to Windows Vista, the default action with a CD-ROM drive type was to follow any autorun.inf file instructions without prompts or warnings. This makes rogue CD-ROMs one possible infection vector.

In the same category are mixed content CD-ROMs. An audio CD, that a user would not expect to contain software at all, can contain a data section with an autorun.inf. Some companies, such as Sony BMG, have used this vector to install software that attempts to protect against copying of the audio tracks.

U3 enabled flash drives, by emulating a CD-ROM unit, can also cause Windows to execute commands from the autorun.inf found on the emulated CD-ROM.

Devices like the Huawei E220 HSDPA modem, validly use this method to autoinstall drivers for the modem itself. However plugging in a flash drive from an unknown source is an unwise move. USB Switchblade, and other similar tools, have made U3 flash drive attacks trivial. Given the ease of writing script based attacks, anti-virus software may be ineffective in preventing data and password stealing. Social Engineering: The Conficker worm in action

With a standard flash drive, social engineering attacks can be employed to entice a user to click on the appropriate item in the AutoPlay dialog. An alluring action string promising free games or pornography would lure many users into the trap. At any time, double clicking on the drive icon will use the autorun.inf automatically, a trap more advanced users could fall into.

Any user can configure AutoPlay to make various decisions for them; by checking the appropriate box in the AutoPlay dialog, running flash drive malware becomes silent and automatic.

AutoRun malware has been extended to use hard drives, picture frames and other digital devices. Care in dealing with external devices is a security priority.

This is only the tip if the iceberg of virus problems in the region. Much of it is caused by those who DON'T CARE or are unaware because they don't check their equipment and that of the Internet Cafes they use. Is it worth it to do your due diligence? It's up to you. How much do you value the security of your financials and personal information?




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