What is a worm?
A computer worm is a self-replicating program that has the ability to copy itself from one computer to another. Computer worms and viruses are often mistaken for one another. While they do share many similarities, the way they survive is different. A computer worm is independent, as it does not need another program for itself to latch onto like a virus does. What a worm can do to your system can vary greatly. It can delete or alter files stored on your hard drive. It can take control of your email program and use it as a launching pad to send off incredible amounts of email. It just all depends on the creator of the worm and what they set it up to do. A side effect on this is that it can incredibly slow down your system, as long as a worm is active on your computer or network, it is most likely hogging all your bandwidth and system resources in efforts to duplicate itself and carry about its assigned tasks.

How does a worm spread itself?

The main way a worm moves from system to system is via computer networks. Using a network, a worm can duplicate itself over and over. One of the more well known worms, named Code Red, copied itself over and over almost half a million times in a span of 12 hours. The way a worm travels from one system to another is usually through security holes found in the operating system on the machine it is trying to infect. Those that use Windows operating systems NT, 2000 or XP may remember the recent RPC Worm that attacked security holes found in all these operating systems. It scanned your system until it found the appropriate hole it was looking for that is found in all of those operating systems, and then exploits that hole and copies itself onto your system.

How can I protect myself from this?

It may seem like protecting yourself from worms is mission impossible. How are you supposed to know what computer ports a worm is looking for and sees as a potential security hole for it to exploit? Well fortunately, you do not have to. As with protecting yourself against viruses and trojans, running and maintaining your anti-virus software is crucial. You may be thinking that anti-virus software may just look for viruses. However, most reputable protection programs also have worm definitions in their databases. Also, you still need to be careful of what programs you download and use. If you are not familiar with it, do not use it. Doing so can make your system vulnerable to these type of attacks. Another important step is to keep your operating system as up to date as your anti-virus software. Installing those windows updates may seem unimportant and annoying, but failing to do so can be much more aggravating than taking the few moments to keep yourself protected. When Microsoft finds holes that people could possibly take advantage of with these worms, they create these updates to block the holes that the worm could use to infiltrate your system. With these security holes blocked, the worm has no way to access your system and moves on. A few seconds of installing updates will seem like nothing if you should ever have to find yourself with an infected system.