Saturday, March 19, 2005

Fwd: [itsdifferent] Virus Primer

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: itsDifferent Group
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 19:53:45 +0530
Subject: Fwd: [itsdifferent] Virus Primer

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Deven Goratela
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 15:48:39 +0530
Subject: [itsdifferent] Virus Primer

What is Malware?
Malware – short for malicious software – refers to any malicious or
unexpected program or code such as viruses, Trojans, and droppers. Not
all malicious programs or codes are viruses. Viruses, however, occupy
a majority of all known malware to date including worms. The other
major types of malware are Trojans, droppers, and kits.

Due to the many facets of malicious code or a malicious program,
referring to it as malware helps to avoid confusion. For example, a
virus that also has Trojan-like capabilities can be called malware.

What is a Trojan?
A Trojan is malware that performs unexpected or unauthorized, often
malicious, actions. The main difference between a Trojan and a virus
is the inability to replicate. Trojans cause damage, unexpected system
behavior, and compromise the security of systems, but do not
replicate. If it replicates, then it should be classified as a virus.

A Trojan, coined from Greek mythology's Trojan horse, typically comes
in good packaging but has some hidden malicious intent within its
code. When a Trojan is executed users will likely experience unwanted
system problems in operation, and sometimes loss of valuable data.

What is a Virus?
A computer virus is a program – a piece of executable code – that has
the unique ability to replicate. Like biological viruses, computer
viruses can spread quickly and are often difficult to eradicate. They
can attach themselves to just about any type of file and are spread as
files that are copied and sent from individual to individual.

In addition to replication, some computer viruses share another
commonality: a damage routine that delivers the virus payload. While
payloads may only display messages or images, they can also destroy
files, reformat your hard drive, or cause other damage. If the virus
does not contain a damage routine, it can cause trouble by consuming
storage space and memory, and degrading the overall performance of
your computer.

Several years ago most viruses spread primarily via floppy disk, but
the Internet has introduced new virus distribution mechanisms. With
email now used as an essential business communication tool, viruses
are spreading faster than ever. Viruses attached to email messages can
infect an entire enterprise in a matter of minutes, costing companies
millions of dollars annually in lost productivity and clean-up

Viruses won't go away anytime soon: More than 60,000 have been
identified, and 400 new ones are created every month, according to the
International Computer Security Association (ICSA). With numbers like
this, it's safe to say that most organizations will regularly
encounter virus outbreaks. No one who uses computers is immune to

Life Cycle of a Virus
The life cycle of a virus begins when it is created and ends when it
is completely eradicated. The following outline describes each stage:

Until recently, creating a virus required knowledge of a computer
programming language. Today anyone with basic programming knowledge
can create a virus. Typically, individuals who wish to cause
widespread, random damage to computers create viruses.

Viruses typically replicate for a long period of time before they
activate, allowing plenty of time to spread.

Viruses with damage routines will activate when certain conditions are
met, for example, on a certain date or when the infected user performs
a particular action. Viruses without damage routines do not activate,
instead causing damage by stealing storage space.

This phase does not always follow activation, but typically does. When
a virus is detected and isolated, it is sent to the ICSA in
Washington, D.C., to be documented and distributed to antivirus
software developers. Discovery normally takes place at least one year
before the virus might have become a threat to the computing

At this point, antivirus software developers modify their software so
that it can detect the new virus. This can take anywhere from one day
to six months, depending on the developer and the virus type.

If enough users install up-to-date virus protection software, any
virus can be wiped out. So far no viruses have disappeared completely,
but some have long ceased to be a major threat.

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