With the increasing use of computers and the Internet, it is becoming vitally important to protect our University network from viruses and other computer threats. The division of Information Technology Services (ITS) has implemented several virus prevention measures to protect our University against costly network downtime, reduced productivity, and compromised data.
Types of Threats
Viruses are not the only threats to your computer. Due to the widespread use of computers and the Internet, other threats have emerged that can be extremely destructive, resulting in loss of data and productivity. The following are the most common types of computer threats.
A virus is a piece of computer code written with the sole intention of replicating itself. A virus attempts to spread from computer to computer by attaching itself to a host program or file, typically without user knowledge or permission. Once a virus infects your computer, it can damage your software, your hardware, and your files. Viruses range from the mildly annoying to the highly destructive. They can be classified using multiple criteria such as origin, techniques, types of files they infect, where they hide, the kind of damage they cause, and the type of operating system or platform they attack.
A worm, like a virus, is designed to copy itself from one computer to another, but it does so without having to attach itself to a host program or file. A worm generally spreads without user action and distributes complete copies of itself across networks. A great danger of worms is their ability to replicate in great volume. When new worms are unleashed, they spread very quickly, clogging networks and causing them to slow down and even collapse.
Unlike viruses, Trojans do not reproduce by infecting other programs or files, nor do they self-replicate like worms. Trojans are computer programs that appear to be harmless, but in fact contain malicious code. When a Trojan is executed, it can delete your files and compromise the security of your computer. Trojans spread when people are lured into opening an e-mail attachment or downloading and running a file from the Internet because they think it comes from a legitimate source.
It is important to know the difference between a real virus threat and a virus hoax. Hoaxes are not viruses; they are false messages sent by e-mail warning users of a non-existent virus. Virus hoaxes often include technical terms or agency names to mislead users into believing that they have received a warning about a real virus. The intention is to cause panic and trick users into taking immediate action to protect themselves from the virus, often leading to negative results. Users are advised not to pay attention to these misleading warnings and to delete these messages without e-mailing them to others.
Ransomware is a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system's screen or by locking the users' files unless a ransom is paid. More modern ransomware families, collectively categorized as crypto-ransomware, encrypt certain file types on infected systems and forces users to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods to get a decrypt key. For more information see Ransomware.
Spyware applications are programs that secretly run on a computer and gather personal information. They will monitor your computer activity whether you are online or offline and send that information to an outside party, usually without your consent. They can arrive in an email attachment, through a pop-up window or ad, through a web page, through an instant messenger service, through a file sharing program, and even through a software that you purchase and install (often disclosed in the license agreement).
The following utilities, although not supported by the University, can be used to scan, clean, and protect your computer from virus attacks. Please note that the use of these tools is done at your own risk.
Since most viruses are transmitted through e-mail attachments, Information Technology Services (ITS) is blocking e-mail attachments with certain file extensions (see list below). Blocking attachments most commonly used by viruses adds an additional layer of protection against virus attacks. Messages containing attachments that are blocked will still be delivered, but the attachments will be removed.
File extensions that are blocked:
What can I do to protect my computer against viruses?
The best defense against virus attacks is to install an anti-virus software on your computer and keep it up-to-date. Also, it is important to apply the latest security patches to the applications installed on your computer. Patches fix vulnerabilities which are potential entry points for viruses and other computer threats.
How do I know if my computer is infected with a virus?
There are signs that can be symptomatic of a virus infection in a computer (general slowdown, missing files, etc). However, the best way to know if your computer is infected is to use a good, updated anti-virus software to scan your system.
What should I do if my campus workstation has a virus?
What should I do if my home computer has a virus?
Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and scan your computer.
Where can I get anti-virus software for my home computer?
If my computer is not connected to the Internet, can it be infected with a virus?
Yes, you can still get a virus from any type of removable device (DVD, CD, flash drive, external hard drive, etc.), especially when transferring files from one computer to another. It is good practice to always scan a removable device before opening a file from it or copying the file to your computer.
If a virus reaches my computer, does this mean it is infected?
Not necessarily; just because a virus has entered your computer, it does not mean that it has been activated. Most viruses infect a computer when they are opened or executed.
Why would someone I know send me a virus?
Most e-mail viruses will come from somebody you know because the majority of viruses propagate by sending themselves to people in the infected person's Address Book. Usually, this occurs without the knowledge of the sender.
How can I distinguish a hoax from a real virus?
Hoaxes are not viruses and take no damaging action on your computer. A hoax is simply a message warning you of a non-existent virus that anti-virus programs cannot detect.
What should I do if I receive a virus hoax?
If you receive a hoax, keep the following in mind: pay no attention to the content of the message; do not follow any of the advice or instructions in the message; do not forward it to anyone; delete the message.
Off Campus: All Cal State LA faculty, staff, and students should take active measures in protecting their home computers from virus attacks. Information Technology Services (ITS) recommends downloading and installing a product available from the Free Software section.