A computer virus is a program designed to spread itself by infecting files and moving from one computer to another. They can be harmless but viruses are normally designed with malicious intent and can cause major problems to anyone using a computer infected with one.
Viruses are sometimes referred to by more specific names. Worms are a type of virus often spread through email messages; Trojans, named after the Trojan horse, are a type which masquerade as a normal application to conceal their true nature.
How can my computer become infected?
Viruses are most often spread through suspect email attachments or security vulnerabilities in web browsers. One major virus outbreak, the ‘Blaster virus’, spread by exploiting a security weakness in Windows. Viruses can be spread when files are copied from USB memory sticks or hard drives.
How can I tell if my computer has a virus?
These are some of the symptoms you might experience if you have a virus:
- Poor performance
- Applications crashing unexpectedly
- Unusual pop-up windows appearing
- Web pages opening at random
If you experience any of these symptoms on your computer then you are at risk. You should stop using the computer and immediately take steps to check it for virus infections and remove them if found. Do not attempt to work on a computer that is at risk until you have reassured yourself it is not.
What anti-virus software can I use?
If you are using a University managed computer it has Sophos anti-virus program installed already. This will help protect you from the threat of viruses.
If you use a PC at home to access University information you must have adequate protection installed - otherwise you are putting your University computer and files at risk indirectly. If you do not have anti-virus software already installed then we have advice and instructions you can follow.
If you use a computer to access University information without anti-virus software then you are in breach of University Information Security Policy.
How can I avoid virus infections?
To prevent infection and damage caused by viruses you must ensure that you have anti-virus software installed. You should also make sure you follow these 'good practice' precautions:
- Avoid opening email attachments from unknown senders. Do not open them until you have scanned them for virus infection.