Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Computer Viruses and Other Hazards

Name: Paul
Status: other
Grade: 12+
Location: IL
Country: USA
Date: May 2, 2011 

What is a Computer Virus? What do viruses do? How do viruses Spread? How do I prevent a virus? What are Trojan Horse programs? Malware? Phishing?


From National Institute of Science and Technology Which is the US government office in charge of this problem and should be your reference for this subject At this URL:

Please find the following definitions from paragraph 5:

5.1.1 Virus: A virus is designed to self-replicate-make copies of itself-and distribute the copies to other files, programs, or computers. Viruses insert themselves into host programs and propagate when the infected program is executed, generally by user interaction (e.g., opening a file, running a program, clicking on a file attachment). Viruses have many purposes-some are designed to play annoying tricks, whereas others have destructive intent. Some viruses present themselves as jokes while performing secret destructive functions. There two major types of viruses are compiled viruses, which are executed by the operating system, and interpreted viruses, which are executed by an application.

5.1.3 Trojan Horse

Named after the wooden horse from Greek mythology, Trojan horses are non-replicating programs that appear to be benign but actually have a hidden malicious purpose. Some Trojan horses are intended to replace existing files with malicious versions, whereas other Trojan horses add another application to a system without overwriting existing files. Trojan horses are often difficult to detect because they appear to be performing a useful function.

Malware is a broad term for software (programs and scripts) that have malicious intent and is not specifically addressed in this pub. But Viruses, Trojans, and Key-loggers are just examples of Malware. Section 5.1.8 gives you an idea of what malware refers to.

In paragraph 5.1.8, page 5-6, please find this definition of phishing: Phishing refers to use of deceptive computer-based means to trick individuals into disclosing sensitive personal information. To perform a phishing attack, an attacker creates a Web site or e-mail that looks as if it is from a well-known organization, such as an online business, credit card company, or financial institution. The fraudulent e-mails and Web sites are intended to deceive users into disclosing personal data, usually financial information. For example, phishers might seek usernames and passwords for online banking sites, as well as bank account numbers.

You can find "anything else" in the document.

Best of luck in helping us standardize and understand these problems.

Sincerest regards, Mike Stewart

Click here to return to the Computer Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory