Caught A Virus?
If you've let your guard down--or even if you haven't--it can be hard to tell if
your PC is infected. Here's what to do if you suspect the worst.
Heard this one before? You must run antivirus software and keep it up to date or
else your PC will get infected, you'll lose all your data, and you'll incur the
wrath of every e-mail buddy you unknowingly infect because of your carelessness.
You know they're right. Yet for one reason or another, you're not running antivirus
software, or you are but it's not up to date. Maybe you turned off your virus
scanner because it conflicted with another program. Maybe you got tired of
upgrading after you bought Norton Antivirus 2001, 2002, and 2003. Or maybe your
annual subscription of virus definitions recently expired, and you've put off
It happens. It's nothing to be ashamed of. But chances are, either you're infected
right now, as we speak, or you will be very soon.
For a few days in late January, the Netsky.p worm was infecting about 2,500 PCs a
day. Meanwhile the MySQL bot infected approximately 100 systems a minute (albeit
not necessarily desktop PCs). As David Perry, global director of education for
security software provider Trend Micro, puts it, "an unprotected [Windows] computer
will become owned by a bot within 14 minutes."
Today's viruses, worms, and so-called bots--which turn your PC into a zombie that
does the hacker's bidding (such as mass-mailing spam)--aren't going to announce
their presence. Real viruses aren't like the ones in Hollywood movies that melt
down whole networks in seconds and destroy alien spacecraft. They operate in the
background, quietly altering data, stealing private operations, or using your PC
for their own illegal ends. This makes them hard to spot if you're not well
Is Your PC "Owned?"
I should start by saying that not every system oddity is due to a virus, worm, or
bot. Is your system slowing down? Is your hard drive filling up rapidly? Are
programs crashing without warning? These symptoms are more likely caused by
Windows, or badly written legitimate programs, rather than malware. After all,