University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

Virus Information you need to know


What are computer viruses, worms, trojans and spyware?

· Computer viruses act similarly to human viruses. The virus copies itself and quickly spreads through out the machine. The machine becomes infected and slows down--just like when a person catches a cold or the flue. The virus can spread quickly to other machines through the network just like a cold virus spreads across campus. Viruses usually appear in attachments.

· Worms and Trojans, in addition to viruses, can infect your computer. Worms act like viruses, but do not come in attachments; they travel through the network and infect vulnerable computers. Trojans disguise themselves as useful programs, but in reality are harmful programs that harm your computer. Trojans may also allow someone to gain information from your computer, such as credit card numbers.

· Spyware is a term used to describe software and cookies that track your computer usage and reports it to a third party, often without your consent. Spyware often comes attached to utilities such as a time and date manager, music download software, or ape "buddies." Other malicious software in this category is different than spyware in that it does not necessarily have to spy on the user to cause harm or annoyance. It can prevent programs from working, display pop-up ads, or change your homepage.

How do you get a computer viruses, worms, trojans and spyware?

· Sharing portable disk (floppies, zip, CD’s, USB drives.)

· Opening an infected email attachment

· Pirated software (Illegal software)

· Downloading infected files and music from P2P sites such as Limewire, BitTorrent, etc

· Instant Messenger macros

· Simply plugging your unprotected, un-patched computer into a high speed network like Pitt-Johnstown’s

· Saving preferences, passwords and applets from websites you visit

· Visiting hacker web pages that promise free stuff, screen savers, daily joke/pictures updates

How to avoid getting an infection:

· Use an up-to-date virus scan program – you can download Symantec Anti-Virus free from the Software Downloads link found in My Resources at

· Update your virus software frequently – configure your software to get automatic updates daily

· Never open suspicious email attachments

· Make sure ALL users on your computer have strong passwords.

· Update your OS software regularly - configure your software to get automatic updates daily

· Scan all floppies, USB sticks, or other portable storage media for viruses.

· Avoid downloading files from sites such as LimeWire/Frostwire, BitTorrent, uTorrent, etc. The files often contain more than just music or movies: most files come with extra surprises such as Trojans.

· Do not install pirated software, screen savers; again, they tend to contain unwanted extras.

What could happen to me if I get a virus?

If your computer has an infection, it will not run properly. You may find that your computer runs slowly or programs shut down. The virus may prevent you from connecting to the Internet. If your computer disrupts the network, ResNet will shut off your Internet access. If your port is shut off because of a virus, you will be required to clean/repair your PC and you will be without your connection for as long as 3 weeks or until your PC is free of viruses.

What should I do if I suspect a virus?

Unplug the network cable from your computer to prevent the spread of the virus. Then call the ResNet Help Desk at ext. 7548. We will attempt to walk you through the removal of the virus/trojan/malware and get you back on line as quickly as possible.  

Last Reviewed: August 14, 2006