Virus and malicious software information - Securing email and files


A virus is computer software that is intentionally written to cause an adverse event on a computer. They are capable of deleting data, making your computer operate in unwanted ways and generally causing grief. Common ways of receiving viruses are via email, web browsing or opening files on a shared or removable storage medium (network disk drives, CDs, floppy discs).

Computer viruses can range from simply annoying to downright malicious programs that can monitor, attack and destroy the information on workstations, servers and computer networks.

Malicious software

Malicious software is software written with the intent of causing some inconvenience to the user of the software. Malicious software in general terms is quite often called a virus, however there are many other forms of malicious software.

Other types of malicious software

Some other types of malicious or potentially malicious software are worms, trojan horses, spyware, and PuPs. The classes tend to change as more and more malicious software is developed.


A worm (of the computer variety) is a virus that stores itself in the computer's memory and is able to replicate itself. It is then able to send the replicated worm to other computers, usually via email or Internet Relay Chat. Examples of destructive worms in recent history are "I love you", "Code Red", "Blaster" and "Nimda".

Trojan horse

A trojan horse is malicious software that gives the impression of being harmless. Trojan Horses are typically used to entice users to interact with them to then do something malicious.


Spyware is a class of programs intended to remotely monitor your computer activities. A classic example is of key logging software that captures all of your keystrokes (including your passwords!).


A PuP is terminology used by the McAfee company for "Potentially unwanted Programs". PuPs are programs that can have a legitimate use such as remote control of a PC. However, for a large number of users these programs are "potentially unwanted". That is, that they may have been installed illegitimately by an unauthorised person to

How RMIT prevents viruses and other malicious software

RMIT has security software installed on all its workstations and servers. This security software provides:

  • Proactive scanning to stop and remove viruses and malicious software
  • Proactive scanning for spy ware, ad ware and malware from internet websites
  • Intrusion prevention and system firewall software for stronger security
  • Rapid and automatic virus software updates
  • Server-side scanning of mail gateways to prevent email-borne viruses, many of which are included in spam messages. For further information on SPAM go to SPAM Emails.
  • Server-side scanning of user home directories and shared network drives
  • Central monitoring to ensure systems have received the latest virus definition updates

Further information

For further information and assistance contact the Service and Support Centre.

Note: The Service and Support Centre support for home PCs is very limited.