computer virus ==>
<security> (By analogy with biological viruses, via SF) A program or
piece of code written by a cracker that "infects" one or more other programs by
embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become Trojan horses. When
these programs are executed, the embedded virus is executed too, thus
propagating the "infection". This normally happens invisibly to the user.
A virus has an "engine" - code that enables it to propagate and optionally a
"payload" - what it does apart from propagating. It needs a "host" - the
particular hardware and software environment on which it can run and a "trigger"
- the event that starts it running.
Unlike a worm, a virus cannot infect other computers without assistance. It is
propagated by vectors such as humans trading programs with their friends (see
SEX). The virus may do nothing but propagate itself and then allow the program
to run normally. Usually, however, after propagating silently for a while, it
starts doing things like writing "cute" messages on the terminal or playing
strange tricks with the display (some viruses include display hacks). Viruses
written by particularly antisocial crackers may do irreversible damage, like
By the 1990s, viruses had become a serious problem, especially among IBM PC and
Macintosh users (the lack of security on these machines enables viruses to
spread easily, even infecting the operating system). The production of special
antivirus software has become an industry, and a number of exaggerated media
reports have caused outbreaks of near hysteria among users. Many lusers tend to
blame *everything* that doesn't work as they had expected on virus attacks.
Accordingly, this sense of "virus" has passed into popular usage where it is
often incorrectly used for a worm or Trojan horse.
See boot virus, phage. Compare back door. See also Unix conspiracy.
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