What is a Computer Virus?


September 10, 2023 (1y ago)


A computer virus is a type of malicious software program designed to spread from one computer to another and disrupt normal operations.

Viruses can delete files, slow down systems, display unwanted messages, or even allow hackers to access your computer.

Understanding what computer viruses are and how they spread can help you better protect your devices.

How Do Computer Viruses Spread?

There are a few main ways computer viruses propagate:

  • Email attachments - Opening infected file attachments sent over email is a common way viruses spread. The attachment may seem legitimate but contains embedded malicious code.
  • Infected websites - Visiting compromised websites can trigger viruses that attempt to infect your computer. Drive-by downloads don't require any action from the user.
  • Network sharing - Viruses can spread through networked computers by exploiting vulnerabilities in shared resources like folders and printers.
  • Removable media - Portable drives like USB sticks can carry viruses that activate when plugged into a computer.
  • Operating system vulnerabilities - Flaws or bugs in operating systems like Windows or MacOS can sometimes be exploited by viruses.

Types of Computer Viruses

There are many different categories and variants of computer viruses:

  • Trojan Horses - Malicious programs disguised as legitimate software. Often spread through email attachments.
  • Worms - Viruses that self-replicate and spread across networks by exploiting vulnerabilities.
  • Macro viruses - Written in macro programming languages like VBA. Often infect Microsoft Office files.
  • Polymorphic viruses - Mutate their code as they replicate to avoid detection.
  • Rootkits - Grant administrator access to take control of systems.

Protecting Your Computer From Viruses

Here are some tips to secure your computer from viral infections:

  • Install reputable antivirus software and keep it updated
  • Avoid opening suspicious email attachments
  • Don't visit questionable websites
  • Scan any removable media before opening files
  • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date
  • Use firewalls and pop-up blockers
  • Make regular backups of important data

Vigilance and security tools can help prevent viral infections. But if you suspect your computer has a virus, disconnect from networks and have a professional examine it immediately.

Catching and removing viruses early is key to minimizing damage.

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