Viral Infections

Cutlass

A biological virus is a type of parasite which can infect both plant and animal organisms.

A virus lacks the cellular nucleus where energy production and cell replication occur.

It cannot synthesize proteins or generate ATP which is the fuel that powers all living cells.   The virus invades the nucleus of the host cell, taps into the cells’ energy product system and hijacks the cell reproduction machinery to generating more of the virus which spreads throughout the host. Each infected cell creates numerous copies of the virus. The new virus then leaves the infected cell and goes on to invade new cells.

The human body’s defense mechanisms consists of two phases – recognition and adaptive.

In the recognition phase, the immune system attempts to identify the virus based on information maintained in our DNA. If the virus adapts and changes it’s molecular structure, the immune system may unlikely recognize the virus and fail to target the appropriate response.

During the adaptive phase, instructions from the recognition wave guide our body’s immune system to a more precisely targeted response. A fever for example is one response where the body raises the core temperature to make the body an inhospitable viral host.

A computer virus is an application that infects your computer by installing itself without the user knowing of the installation event.   Once it is installed and running, anything thereafter is possible. Following the biological model, the infection could:

  1. Incapacitate the computer by a number approaches such as consuming all memory or CPU.
  2. Be a ransom ware target where a malicious virus would delete or encrypt or lock the computer’s hard drive in 24 hours after infection. The user would be instructed to pay the hacker money for the encryption key or cancel the deletion event.
  3. Silently monitor the computer to capture keyboard keystrokes and forward the keystroke file to the hacker. The file will contain the PC’s credentials and access details to a secure website such as the user’s bank or facebook.
  4. More sophisticated hacks would silently monitor the network to understand which servers hosted data or ran batch jobs.

Virus protection software works similarly to the body’s recognition defense mechanism. A virus detection application such as Norton Anti-Virus contains signature files which identifies the viral application, reports on its presence and applies the appropriate removal process to ensure the virus does not crop up again when the computer is restarted.

Countermeasures against viral infections include:

  1. If you have a Macintosh or iPhone, ensure the malware database is up to date.
    1. Never install Mac Defender – it is malware.
    1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app and check the version General > About > Version.
    1. The latest version as of January 29, 2017 is 10.2.1.   Update your phone if not up to the most recent version.
  2. For Windows 8, Microsoft Windows Defender which is automatically updated and periodically started.