Viruses and Spyware

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Viruses, Worms and Other Yuck - 101

Computer viruses, worms, Trojan Horses and the like all have one thing in common: they do something to your computer that you don't want them to do. Some are very innocent and benign, simply displaying a message on your screen and then going away. Others can be very destructive. They may delete chunks of important information off your hard drive, grow on their own to the point that your hard drive fills up, and even send email messages with your passwords, contact lists or any other information to people far and near. Some viruses happen immediately; others lay in wait for a specific day or trigger to do their dirty work. Still others have the ability to 'mutate,' or change what they do and how they spread.

There are four primary ways that a virus will enter your computer: (1) through a diskette, ZIP drives or other removable media; (2) as an email attachment; (3) as a file you downloaded from the Internet; and (4) through file/folder sharing. (A fifth possible way is through a program or application that you purchased. The incidence of this method of infection, however, pales in comparison to the other four. Most manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their distributed software is virus-free.)

The probability that a computer will become infected through file/folder sharing on the SPU network has increased dramatically. Particularly among the student population, please be advised, alerted, forewarned and very, very, strongly cautioned, that sharing files and/or folders on the network will increase the probability that your computer will be hit with a virus to 100%. In other words, if you share files your computer will be targeted by a virus. Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and active!

As a general rule, you should never open a file or email attachment that you weren't expecting - even if it's from someone you know.

This is where many people have gotten into trouble. We're warned against opening attachments from people we don't know. But many current viruses spread through email that looks like it's coming from people we know! Always be wary of unsolicited email with strange or incomplete subject lines... and never open an attachment that you are not anticipated. Virus programmers go to great lengths to bait their victims with messages that seem to cry out: "open me, OPEN ME!"

Through a combination of good antivirus software and sound user-practices, our defenses to prevent virus infection are formidable. It only takes a few minutes to contact a colleague and verify that they did indeed send you a legitimate email attachment. Exercising good judgment in this regard could potentially save you and the University considerable resources and headache!

Computer Viruses: Avoid Infection


How to Avoid Infection
The numbers of viruses that exist and that are created daily is staggering. One source estimates are that there are in excess of 1000 viruses running rampant throughout the Internet at any given point in time!

BC's antivirus effort has four dimensions.

1. Sound user practices
2. Client (local) computer antivirus software
3. Server antivirus software.
4. Providing antivirus software for BC Students

1. Sound user practices

There are a few good habits that everyone can practice that will significantly mitigate the possibility that a virus will affect our network.

Never open a file or email attachment that you weren't expectingBe wary of all spam and unsolicited emailDo not share our folders from your computer without some level of password protectionInstall a 'good' antivirus program on your computer (see next item below)

2. Client Computer Software

BC feels so strongly about preventing virus propagation on campus, that we now have deployed Symantec Norton Enterprise Anti-Virus software. Given the universal availability of antivirus software for all BC students, faculty and staff members, maintaining antivirus locally is strongly encouraged for a device connecting to the BC network.

Things to look for in an antivirus program:

Interval scanning: you can set a time interval for the program to thoroughly scan your system.

Automatic scanning: whenever you download a file from the Internet or copy files from removable media (floppy disks, etc.) the information is scanned for viruses.

Automatic updates: This is a biggie. Many new viruses come out every week and a program's detection capability is only as good as its virus definition (data) files. Detection programs must have a description of the virus in their database, otherwise the virus goes undetected. Many anti-virus software manufacturers offer free periodic updates to their product's data files; some even do this automatically via the web.

3. Server-based Antivirus Software

In addition to the two aspects of virus protection mentioned above, IST maintains antivirus software on all of the central server computers, and scans incoming email attachments for possible infection.

4. Antivirus for Students

BC cares about the safety and security of the computers owned by our students. Viruses can prohibit students from completing their assignments and also affect a student's ability to use the campus network in the residence halls. Therefore, BC offers a free download of Norton Antivirus for all enrolled students. This includes all traditional and adult degree completion students whether you live on campus or are a commuter.

Through a combination of awareness and current antivirus software, you should do well in mitigating the risk of infection. HOWEVER: Nothing is 100% effective when it comes to viruses. You should also practice good data habits: keep backup copies of your important files in safe and separate locations.

Spyware 101

What is Spyware?

According to, Spyware is any technology that aids in gathering information about a person or organization without their knowledge. On the Internet (where it is sometimes called a spybot or tracking software), Spyware is programming that is put in someone's computer to secretly gather information about the user and relay it to advertisers or other interested parties.

Why is it called Spyware?

The name Spyware is derived essentially from the function of the software. This software is used to "spy" on your computer in order to obtain information that can be used for advertising purposes.

Is Spyware Illegal?

No, although many feel that Spyware is an invasion of privacy, there are no laws in place at this time that makes the distribution of such software illegal.

Can I stop the Spyware from being installed on my computer?

No, Spyware is installed without any user intervention.

How do I remove Spyware?

Spyware can be removed by running a Spyware Removal Tool which operates similar to an Anti-Virus program. You can download free Spyware Removal Tools for personal use from the following websites:

Please note the above links take you to third-party software vendors not associated with Bluefield College. The software is not supported by the Bluefield College IST staff, please install at your own discretion.


The following tool is designed to alert faculty, staff, and students to the latest virus and security risks that pose a threat to their computers. The following chart is connected with Symantec's Security website.

Threat Level 1 = Low 
Threat Level 3 = Medium 
Threat Level 5 = High