Security Awareness - Antivirus

Last Updated: 04/04/2013

Overview

Antivirus software is one of the most important tools for safe-guarding your computer, vital information, and personal data from the daily onslaught of viruses and worms. Without antivirus protection, your computer may be left completely defenseless against perpetrators' relentless attemps. Antivirus software is available from OIT at not cost to all CU-Boulder faculty, staff and students work and/or personal use.

Is Your Computer Feeling a Little Vulnerable?

Antivirus software is one of the most important tools in protecting your computer and personal information from viruses and worms. When it comes to technology and security, computers are quite similar to houses. Most people would not leave their doors and windows wide open, exposing their residences to complete strangers. Yet, why are computers often left open and unsecured, virtually welcoming viruses to sneak in the front door or window?

As a CU-Boulder student or faculty or staff member, acquiring and using antivirus software to secure your computer is as easy as locking a door, all at no cost to you. OIT provides recommended antivirus software for both university-owned and personal systems. While OIT does recommend specific antivirus software packages, other antivirus programs are also acceptable.

Download Antivirus Software: Antivirus software is available from OIT at no cost to all CU-Boulder faculty, staff and students work and/or personal use.
Learn How to Stay Protected in Addition to Antvirus Software
Quick Tip: Many worms and viruses spread to a PC when web page scripts are run in your browser.  These scripts typically provide interactivity on the page. You can turn off browser scripting in Internet Explorer by selecting Tools, Internet Options, Security and clicking Custom Level.  Disable Download unsigned ActiveX controls, Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe, Active scripting, and Scripting of Java applets.

Update your Antivirus Regularly

Remember, your virus protection is only as effective as its last update. New viruses appear all the time (industry experts estimate that there are currently more than 50,000 viruses in existence and approximately 200 discovered each month). If your antivirus software isn't current, the latest viruses or worms can sneak in. Thus, updating antivirus scanner definitions is a crucial part of keeping your computer safe from viruses and worms. This process will keep your scanner up-to-date, so it will be able to detect the most recent virus or worm. Antivirus automatically checks for antivirus engine updates when virus definitions are updated.

There are currently more than 50,000 viruses in existence and 200 viruses are discovered each month, it's recommended you update your software at least once a month.

Antivirus software is especially useful for scanning attachments and links within email messages. Email offers many opportunities for security problems and should not be considered secure. Malicious web sites can install software on your computer or collect personal information from your computer. Be wary of email attachments and web downloads that you do not know anything about. It is actually very easy for a computer virus to be present in email from anyone, including your parents, best friends, or colleagues. It is strongly suggested that antivirus software be used to scan anything that you receive in your email.

One of the main problems with viruses or worms is they can go undetected, especially if you are not running an antivirus program which would catch the intruders immediately. Below are some key signs that your computing system may be infected by a virus or worm, and what to do to solve the problem:

Signs that your system might be infected or compromised

  • You or your Computer Support Representative (CSR - for faculty and staff) have been contacted by the IT Security Team (you can confirm the information by contacting the IT Service Center at 5-HELP)
  • Your system shuts down spontaneously and frequently, even if you don't use it
  • Your Internet connection slows to a crawl even while you are not doing anything significant
  • Your virus scanner crashes and cannot be started again
  • You are no longer able to visit antivirus sites
  • Your hard disk fills up and you can't find the files that use up all the disk space
  • Your computer seems to be displaying an inability to start (boot up) or taking longer than normal to start up
  • Your computer is exhibiting unpredictable program behavior
  • Strange graphics appear on your screen
     

What to do when your system has been compromised

  • Contact the IT Security Office by calling 5-HELP and the IT Service Center will take your information. The IT Security Office will provide information on how to remediate your system. In many cases the only way to be certain that your system can not be used by an attack is to reinstall the system.
  • Change passwords on any computer you use, including OIT email and IdentiKey passwords
  • Complete the remediation of the system
  • Contact the IT Service Center (at 5-HELP) to notify OIT that you have resolved the problem. Please leave the computer turned on and connected to the network
  • OIT will scan the system to verify that there are no serious network vulnerabilities remaining. Based on the scan results OIT will restore network access. Once you have contacted OIT it may take up to a one business day to have the scan completed and network access restored
  • OIT will send an email notification to you and your CSR when access is restored

Get more information on antivirus, software downloads, and daily use tips.

Tech Talk

Viruses

A virus is a computer program intentionally written and released to spread across computers and networks and disrupt your computing experience. These bad-mannered programs come to your PC through email, the Internet, downloaded files, and files you open on a CD. Viruses typically work by attaching themselves to another program on your PC, and do not infect the computer until the program runs. The old "traditional" viruses usually require human interaction (you have to run it, save it, share it; you email a program or document without knowing it's infected). Viruses typically just attach themselves to programs and documents and then depend on humans to propagate. This is changing...

Worms

A worm is similar to a program but doesn't need to attach itself to another program to run. Worms, a sub-class of viruses, are replicated automatically without human help (like an email address book attack). Worms can bog down networks and web sites. And, the scary part is that you don't have to do anything but turn your computer on!

Trojans

A Trojan poses as a legitimate program but is designed to disrupt computing on the PC it infects. It is not designed to spread to other computers.

Backdoor Trojans

This type of code allows other computer users to gain access to your computer across the Internet.