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A Look at Today's Nastiest Computer Viruses

Two aggressive computer viruses are threatening PC users everywhere. Learn more about them and what you can do to protect yourself.

Malicious programmers sometimes give their viruses very peculiar names, such as “I Love You.” It sends an email with the subject line “I love you” to everyone in your address book — then it graciously wipes out files on your computer.

The irony of a loving, data-deleting virus is not lost on us, nor was it on the faceless, unknown programmer or programmers who first set “I Love You” onto the computing world. The “I Love You” virus is actually fairly old by technology standards, so here are two of the most recent and dangerous viruses, and what you can do about them today.

The ZeroAccess Rootkit (Trojan.zeroaccess.B) (Virus/Max++) (Dropper.Sirefef.B)

The ZeroAccess virus, or any of its variants listed in the above heading, is incredibly hard to detect and remove because of its ability to remain very well hidden on your drive — it can even block anti-malware software from working. Once it infects your PC, the virus engages in automated click fraud and can download rogue security software (described next) among other bad things.

ZeroAccess is a member of the Trojan Horse virus family, meaning it comes into your computer under a friendly guise only to create trouble in another form (just as the Greeks entered Troy). After infection, ZeroAccess can communicate with sites to download additional malware to your PC and open software back doors for further mischief. This feature also allows the virus to update itself when security programs figure out ways to defeat it, making it a very persistent, almost intelligent piece of malware.

Typical symptoms of infection include:

  • A serious slowdown of your computer’s processing abilities
  • Your search engine results are redirected to unrelated sites
  • Lots of unwanted pop-up ads appear during your browsing

Protection from the ZeroAccess Virus

Antivirus software can identify and remove it in different ways, depending on the variant you have, but it’s a moving target. ZeroAccess is so clever that even if you reformat your hard drive and reinstall your system it cannot be deleted. If ZeroAccess has taken hold of your PC the best way to remove it is to do a low-level wipeout of your hard drive — this “zero filling” process writes on every sector of the drive — and then reinitialize the disk.

Win 7 AntiVirus (Win 7 Internet Security 2012) (Win 7 Security 2012)

This virus is disguised as a free antivirus program. Once installed on your computer, the program alerts you to a bunch of serious infections (you really don’t have any) and asks you to pay for an upgrade to a more powerful version of the program that will remove the virus

Typical signs of infection include:

  • Multiple, high-level security alerts that you are infected.
  • Constant scans of your hard drive.

Ironically, the only virus you have on your computer is the Win 7 Antivirus 2012 program, and major harm will only happen if you pay the fee to upgrade the program. This type of software is sometimes called “ransomware” and it only gets worse if you pay the ransom — your credit card and personal information are now in the hands of someone who intends to use them for more than virus removal!

Protection from Win 7 AntiVirus 2012

Don’t download Win 7 AntiVirus 2012 when asked to do so. If it’s too late for that, don’t delete any files Win 7 AntiVirus 2012 says are infected. Instead, use a genuine antivirus program to remove the fake one.

Basic Antivirus Prevention

Never open unsolicited email, attached documents or any .exe files unless you trust the source.

Be very cautious about downloading and using free programs, particularly antivirus software and arcade games.

Always back up your data and applications to disks or drives other than your internal hard drive, so if the worst-case scenario happens, you can regain your data easily.

Purchase a good antivirus program that is regularly updated to catch the latest viruses, such as Norton or Kaspersky.

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