Science & Reality Today: January 26, 2017: Winter virus can infect computers, too.

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Winter virus can infect computers, too. 
Happy Chernobyl Day …

We all know there are words you never want to be associated with your computer, such as “hacking,” (unless you are trying to score brownie points with Vladimir Putin).

Another big one, as you probably know, is “virus.” A computer virus is any type of code designed to spread to many different computers, whether you know it or not. 

So how did this come about in the first place, you may ask? What sinister 40-year-old villain living in his mother’s basement could come up with this? Here’s what I found.

The Chernobyl virus, which first appeared in 1998, was the first virus ever that had the power to damage your computer’s hardware. It basically turned your computer into a useless piece of plastic, metal and wires until you were able to replace your computer’s basic input and output system (BIOS) chip. 

This chip is responsible for handling everything from your keyboard to your mouse, your monitor and your hard drive. The microprocessor uses it to communicate with the different parts of the computer with which you interact. 

The virus would then infect any files or programs you would try to use and become what is known as a “space filler” virus. It hides in the unused space inside other files. If that file was shared or an infected program was redistributed, the virus would travel with them to a new machine, enabling the infection to spread. 

Then, on whatever day April 26 (the date of the Chernobyl disaster) would fall on, the Chernobyl virus would activate and wipe out all the infected computers along with overwriting the BIOS chip. 

The virus has done millions of dollars worth of damage and has not been completely quarantined, even as of 2017. 

Computers that run either Windows 1995 or 1998 operating systems (which means it’s time to wake up from that 20-year coma) are still vulnerable. 

It took less than a year to find the creator of the virus. The culprit was identified as a Taiwanese computer engineering college student Chen Ing-hau. He first wrote the virus at the Tatung Institute of Technology. Chen never did any time in jail or even faced prosecution because what he did at the time was not illegal under Taiwanese cyber-crime laws. 

This guy was so cocky that he signed the code with his own initials.

Since then, viruses have gotten much more sophisticated, like “Bakasoftware” or the more popular term “Trojan Horse.”

This is a program that gets into your computer by making you think it’s something harmless. Yes, it’s moments like these I wish Jason Bourne was real and he could dish out some payback.

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