Antivirus programs and hardware have been developed to combat viruses. These search for evidence of a virus program (by checking for appearances or behavior that are characteristic of computer viruses), isolate infected files, and remove viruses from a computer's software. Researchers are working to sidestep the tedious process of manually analyzing viruses and creating protections against each by developing an automated immune system for computers patterned after biological processes. In 1995 Israel became the first country to legislate penalties both for those who write virus programs and those who spread the programs.
A distinction should be made between a virus—which must attach itself of another program to be transmitted—and a bomb, a worm, and a Trojan horse. A bomb is a program that resides silently in a computer's memory until it is triggered by a specific condition, such as a date. A worm is a destructive program that propagates itself over a network, reproducing as it goes. A Trojan horse is a malicious program that passes itself off as a benign application; it cannot reproduce itself and, like a virus, must be distributed by diskette or electronic mail.
See F. B. Cohen, A Short Course on Computer Viruses (2d ed. 1994); G. Smith, The Virus Creation Labs: A Journey into the Underground (1994); W. T. Polk et al., Anti-Virus Tools and Techniques for Computer Systems (1995); M. A. Ludwig. The Giant Black Book of Computer Viruses (2d ed. 1998); P. E. Fites, P. Johnston, and M. P. J. Kratz, The Computer Virus Crisis (1999).
Computer program designed to copy itself into other programs, with the intention of causing mischief or damage. A virus will usually execute when it is loaded into a computer's memory. On execution, it instructs its host program to copy the viral code into any number of other programs and files stored in the computer. The corrupted programs may continue to perform their intended functions while also executing the virus's instructions, thus further propagating it. The infection may transfer itself to other computers through storage devices, computer networks, and on-line systems. A harmless virus may simply cause a cryptic message to appear when the computer is turned on; a more damaging virus can destroy valuable data. Antivirus software may be used to detect and remove viruses from a computer, but the software must be updated frequently for protection against new viruses.
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©Brain (the industry standard name being Brain) is (in its first incarnation written in January 1986) considered to be the first computer virus for MS-DOS. It infects the boot sector of storage media formatted with the DOS File Allocation Table (FAT) file system. The virus is also known as Lahore, Pakistani, Pakistani Brain, Brain-A and UIUC. Businessweek magazine at the time called the virus the Pakistani flu.
©Brain lacks code for dealing with hard disk partitioning, and avoids infecting hard disks by checking the most significant bit of the BIOS drive number being accessed; ©Brain does not infect the disk if the bit is clear, unlike other viruses at the time which were totally agnostic of disk partitioning and consequentially destroyed data stored on hard disks by treating them in the same way as floppy disks. ©Brain often went undetected partially due to this deliberate non-destructiveness, especially when the user paid little to no attention to the slow speed of floppy disk access.
The virus came complete with the brothers' address and three phone numbers, and a message that told the user that their machine was infected and for inoculation the user should call them:
It is speculated that the brothers created the virus as a "cute gimmick" to advertise their business.