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Dated: Aug. 13, 2004
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Computer viruses represent great danger and malpractice - they are antipodes of what we want to achieve working on the Net and craving towards the Internet with more humane character. Their negative energy destroys creative work, invades our privacy, and destroys our private and public propriety. Viruses do those things on purpose, willfully and with criminal intentions. In other words, viruses represent Internet terrorism. If we consider them terrorist acts, we will fully understand the evil we deal with and how necessary it is to unite all positive forces to prevent virus creators in their terrorist acts.
A Computer virus is a program that explicitly copies itself. This may lead to it spreading from machine to machine and is typically done without the user’s knowledge or permission. Viruses, by definition, add their code to your system in such a way that when the infected part of the system executes, the virus does also.
We sure have seen a lot of alerts in the last year about viruses that propagate through email. Melissa, Pappa, Killer Résumé and the "Love Bug" are just a few of the 30+ email viruses that have made headlines. Corporations that should have suffered a grand total of zero trouble claimed many millions of dollars in damage. All they had to do to avoid virus damage is tell their employees not to run attachment programs!
If you consider the Internet arena during the past six years, computer viruses have caused unaccountable amount of damage - mostly due to loss of time and resources. For most users, the term "computer virus" is a synonym of the worst nightmares that can happen on their system. Yet some well-known researchers keep insisting that it is possible to use the replication mechanism of the viral programs for some useful and beneficial purposes.
Computer viruses aren't the only kind of malignant programs. Normally, they are classified into one of these categories: Trojan horses, viruses, and worms.
Viruses have three main parts: infectors, triggers, and payloads. Understanding these parts will help you to avoid virus problems, and to deal with them calmly and rationally if you get one.
There are essentially two types of computer viruses, file infectors (also called program viruses) and boot record infectors (also called boot sector viruses). The two types of viruses are distinguished by where they hide and how they are spread.
A file infector embeds itself in files with executable code; most often files with a COM or EXE file name extension and sometimes files with extensions such as SYS, OVL, PRG, or MNU. These viruses spread when the host programs are copied, transferred or downloaded. When the host program is run the virus code becomes active and capable of infecting other programs. The host program often appears to function normally while the virus operates in the background. The virus may remain active in the computers memory even after the host program has been closed.
A boot record infector hides in the Master Boot Record of hard disks and the boot sector of diskettes. These areas of formatted hard disks and diskettes contain executable code. On a virus-free hard disk or diskette, this code may include commands to load the DOS system files or, in the case of diskettes formatted without DOS system files, a command to display a message such as A Non-system disk or disk error.
The boot sector code on a diskette is only executed when the PC is turned on or rebooted with a diskette in the A: drive. If the PC is turned on or rebooted without a diskette in the A: drive the system will execute the code in the Master Boot Record of the hard disk.
When you turn on your computer, a program called the BIOS runs. It is stored on a chip inside the computer, which is cleverly called the BIOS chip. It then looks for a bootable hard disk, and loads your operating system's "bootstrap" program, which starts up the computer. BIOS chips used to be ROMs (Read-Only Memories), which meant that they could never be changed. Nowadays, most computer manufacturers use flash memories for BIOS chips. These are memory chips that can be changed, so you can load BIOS upgrades, but it takes a special procedure. CIH looks for systems with flash memory BIOS chips, and trashes the data on the chip, so your computer can no longer start up. The only way to fix it is to have a technician remove the chip and replace it. In many cases, it's cheaper just to replace the computer.
As the state of the art advances in software development, and operating systems become more sophisticated, viruses are getting more sophisticated as well.
A growing number of viruses are spreading via e-mail in a very cunning way. What happens most often is that the attackers use somebody else’s e-mail address to send viruses to targeted addresses, so the addresses viruses are sent from are not the same as the address we identify in the e-mail we receive. This is the fault of the server we use because it did not provide sufficient protection. In those cases, we should seriously warn the server in question that it does not fulfill its obligations to its users and, if such practice continues, the server is in danger of losing its work license.
In fact, the analogy between computer virus and human sub-personality is now so close that it is tempting to reverse it and realize that the computer virus is a very, very elementary attempt at the development of conscious life. Every conscious part of the human personality begins as a crude, almost mechanical, figure with few defined qualities, but eventually develops into a multi-faceted part of consciousness. It seems likely that the marginal level of life exhibited by a computer virus will not remain at that marginal level forever. Though the computer virus is composed of relatively simple program code, because of its desire to continue to live and to perpetuate itself, it is closer to a personified whole than it is to the special purpose programs to which reductionisms would like to limit the mind. Life seems to want to emerge no matter whether the medium is biological or numerical.
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