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A Computer virus is a program or piece of computer code that is installed or executed onto any computing device without the knowledge of the owner and runs against the owner's wishes. Most computer viruses will disrupt or alter the normal operation of the infected computer. Some computer viruses are destructive, permanently damaging data files or programs on a computer.
 

Terms

Worm First developed by two researchers at Xerox PARC in 1978, a worm is a destructive software program containing code capable of gaining access to computers or networks and once within the computer or network causing that computer or network harm by deleting, modifying, distributing, or otherwise manipulating the data.
Social Engineering Term used to describe the act of tricking a person by the act of deception. For example someone attempting to gain unauthorized access to network may call a business and trick someone into thinking they work for the company and asking for passwords or other company confidential information so they can get access to the network.
Attachment A file attached to an e-mail message. Many e-mail systems only support sending text files as e-mail. If the attachment is a binary file or formatted text file (such as an MS-Word document), it must be encoded before it is sent and decoded once it is received. There are a number of encoding schemes, the two most prevalent being Uuencode and MIME.
E-mail Short for electronic mail, the transmission of messages over communications networks. The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard or electronic files stored on disk
Anti-virus Software Also known as Anti-Virus Software (AVS or just AV), this type of software is designed to protect your computer and/or network against computer viruses. If and when a virus is detected the computer will generally prompt you that a virus has been and what action should be done such as deleting the virus. 
Hoax Term used to describe anything that is not real. For example many hoax e-mails are distributed to cause false fears. A good example of a hoax virus is the "Bad Times" virus, which claimed to be a virus capable of erasing everything on your computer hard disk drive as well as any disks or other magnetic media around your computer.
Payload Term used to describe the instructions a virus or worm execute in addition to copying itself when infected on the computer. For example a payload of a computer virus may be to delete some or all of the files on the computer.

Virus Timeline:

1982 Elk Cloner affected programs for the Apple II computer, though the description of virus was not yet used.

1983 Researcher Fred Cohen uses the term computer virus for the first time in a research paper.

1986 The Brain virus was the first to attack systems running Microsoft's DOS.

1988 The Morris Internet worm is developed by a Cornell graduate student, the son of a government computer security expert. He inadvertently lets it loose and disables the Internet. It's also the year the first antivirus software is created.

1989 Stealth viruses begin to appear, so named because they use techniques to avoid detection.

1992 The Michelangelo virus, timed to the artist's 517th birthday, creates fears of widespread problems but turns out to be a mild attack.

1994 The Good Times virus is a hoax, but rumors about it float for a year.

1995 The first viruses to attack macro functions used to automate processes in Microsoft Word appear.

1996 The Boza virus is the first specifically targeted at the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system.

1997 The FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin has an article on five computer viruses - all hoaxes mentioned in a joke e-mail. Included in the strains: the Clinton and Gingrich viruses.

1999 The Melissa outbreak combined elements of viruses and worms. It spread by e-mail, but also infected document files in thousands of computers.

1999 Distributed denial of service attacks begin, crippling major Web sites. To carry out the attacks, computers were hacked and had software secretly installed.

2000 The Love Bug, so named because of ILOVEYOU in the e-mail subject line, invades millions of computers and uses the Outlook e-mail program address book to send copies of itself to others. It also replaces photo and music files with copies of itself.

2001 The Code Red Worm takes control of infected computers to generate massive Internet traffic, blocking access to some sites.

2001 The Nimda worm strikes just a week after Sept. 11, packing multiple methods to infect machines.

2002 The Klez e-mail virus can be launched even if the user doesn't open the message.

2003 SoBig, Slammer and MSBlast are among a rash of viruses, worms and malware that spread quickly and break new ground in infecting machines.

2004 Trojan.Xombe, MyDoom and similar strains ratchet up "phishing" techniques to fool users into divulging personal information.


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Reference: Webopedia
Long Vu 2005