Email viruses are codes sent through an email, which if activated, will harm and destroy some important files in one’s computer hard disk or send the virus through an attachment to everyone in one’s contact list. The best ways to stay away from such viruses are to not open or double-click an email unless you know the sender and the content of the attachment or install an antivirus software for protection from virus threats.
Melissa and ILOVEYOU viruses are among the famous viruses ever created. The Melissa virus was created in Word document and was spread in March 1999 with spectacular attacks on computer files and documents. Downloading the Word file sent through email would activate the virus immediately and send the same email to 50 other persons in the contact list of email addresses. Because it was containing the name of the person including a friendly note, the recipient would open the document assuming it to be harmless. This was the main reason why Melissa virus was spread so fast through the Internet. It resulted in shutting down of some companies’ email systems to control the further spread.
The ILOVEYOU virus that was spread in May 2000 was simpler than the Melissa virus. This virus was spreading simply by double-clicking the piece of code attached to the email. The ILOVEYOU virus was mailing its copies to everyone in the recipient address book and was corrupting files as well as the computer.
The Melissa virus was made through a programming language built into Microsoft Word named Visual Basics for Applications (VBA). This program can be used to write new programs and modify files and mail messages. It also has a dangerous feature of auto-execution, which means a programmer can insert a program or file into a document that runs instantly whenever the document is opened. If anyone would open the Melissa-infected document, the virus would be activated immediately. Apart from sending 50 emails to others in the recipient address book, Melissa virus also infected the central file named NORMAL.DOT. Therefore, any file saved later would also get infected by the virus.
Microsoft applications have features to protect the machines and computer from such viruses. The application simply disables the auto-execute feature in the document. It is always difficult for the user to understand the threat of the viruses shown in antivirus. However, an antivirus is important as it prevents the effects of viruses and protects the system from such damages. By disabling the antivirus protection, one may pave way for the virus to spread further.
In the case of ILOVEYOU virus, it is up to the users whether they double-click the document or ignore it. It is solely at user’s discretion to double-click on the executable. Similarly, exploits have been passed through messaging networks like AIM and Live Messenger. Anyone who clicks the link sent through messages and AIMs will automatically install Trojans application and also hijack and spam their friends through the sent link.
One may try to protect their computer from the threat of viruses by installing an antivirus software. It is important to know about phishing and other social engineering attacks that are on the rise. When hackers try to steal one’s personal information and use it for their own motives, it is known as social engineering. Moreover, the best way to protect such personal information is by simply not sharing it online.
A new virus called Love Bug had also been smashed across North America and Europe. It was in the form of graphics files attached to emails. If one clicks these files, the email is sent to all the contacts in the address book, thereby spreading the virus to everyone. Another virus called the Anna Kournikova worm hit several companies in Europe. The virus was in the form of a photo of the blonde Russian tennis star Kournikova and spread when the recipients click the photo.