How Did I Get a Virus?

Updated on December 30, 2018
joepotter profile image

I've worked in the IT field for over 35 years having worked with Sprint, IBM, & Boeing.

Well the prognosis is in and your computer has a System Transmitted Disease (STD) and I often get the response "But I used anti-virus protection, so how did I get a virus?" First let's understand that anti-virus software is reactionary. This means that a virus must exist before it can be discovered, a cure created, and a cure provided to your pc.

For example, a person releases a virus on day one, it takes time (lets say a day) for the the virus to be discovered, then more time (another day) to devise a "cure", then more time (another day) to distribute the cure and defense to computers world wide. In this case the virus has been in the world without a way to cure it or protect against it for four days. during this time all computers are at risk from getting the virus. Of course one day between each is an overly optimistic example, it usually takes days and weeks.

The creators of viruses are intelligent, albeit destructive, people that plan their creation much like a general of an army or a chess master. They attack with a purpose, and often have defenses and counter moves to stymie the anti-virus makers. I often encounter secondary payloads and undocumented viruses long before the anti-virus companies find them or create a cure. As such, the virus writers will often attack the very protections you rely upon and in some cases will infect them and take them over.

The next reason for getting a virus while having anti-virus protection is that you don't really have protection. Anti-virus software is not a one time purchase, in most cases, that protects you forever. Most require a subscription, like a magazine, that allows you to get the above described "cures" and protections from the growing number of threats. If you allow that subscription to run out, then you are still protected from the old viruses, but not the new ones. I have some customers come in that have 4 year old anti-virus that isn't up to date.

Many new computers come preloaded with anti-virus software. But just like the Microsoft Office often included, it is only a trial copy good for 60 or 90 days, then expires unless you pay. Too many people don't realize it, and think they have protection. Without that protection you are at risk.

Another way a virus can waltz onto your cyber-ballroom floor is for you to ask it to dance. There are a variety of devious methods devised to get you to allow Dracula into your home. One such method is the red X in the upper right corner of a program window. Many of us have encountered a website, by devise or accidentally, that throws pop-up windows everywhere on our screen. The inclination is to click the red X to close the windows out. This can be the permission the virus needed to get past your defenses. NEVER click the X in the corner in a pop-up window.

The reason for not clicking the X is that a pop-up can be created without any window controls. This means no - X or square to minimize, maximize, restore, or close a window. If one can program a window with no controls, they can create web controls that the X equates to a yes install that virus, spyware, or other bad software on my PC.

Hold the ALT key down and tap the F4 key until all browser windows are closed. If you get one that won't close because the X is grayed out and you have to choose (usually) a Yes or NO...don't pick either. Hold your CTL and ALT keys down and press the DEL(ete) key once. Once Task Manager (this is all oriented to Windows users) is up, Right click and End Process Tree on all IEXPLORE.exe processes on the process tab.

Finally, not unlike a gopher who digs a hole under your fence, that you don't notice, other critters can use that hole to get into your yard. If you install cutesy software like toolbars, do music downloads, or other such activities, you run increased risks of getting faulty software, or getting spyware on your computer. Once spyware gets in, it leaves openings for hackers, and for viruses to get in as well. So be cautious.

One last thought about your anti-virus software. Your software actually may be lacking the ability to stop viruses without making your computer unusable or making it more susceptible to problems. One big named anti-virus maker that was used by many Internet providers (A-O-SMELL) in their software once admitted to having security flaws that increased security threats. Many anti-virus software try to do it all and end up making your computer worse than the viruses themselves or can't remove them for you.

Look for follow up articles for recommendations and reviews of many of the well known antivirus software. You can try to inoculate yourself, however these days you will likely need help of an experienced local repair shop. Most computer STDs can be cured without wiping your system clean by a knowledgeable technician, however in the last few years most people have backups of their data and frequently do.

With System Restore, System Refresh, and System Reload, you can quickly recover from most viruses. The only reasons to go through the time and expense of a comprehensive cleaning is if you don't have a good backup, you have software that you can't reinstall - missing media or licenses, or if the time to reload and re-setup your system would be more expensive in time and money.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Potterville


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    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      19 months ago from Osaka, Japan

      Holy-moly! This is very important stuff! Never click the X? I never would have thought of that. Thanks for the info!


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