What Is A Computer Virus? An Overview

What Is A Computer Virus? An Overview

A computer virus is a software program that replicates itself and infects a computer. A true virus has reproductive ability. Although in factual sense, some types of malware including adware and spyware programs do not have reproductive ability, they are included under the term computer virus. A computer virus performs a variety of functions, like annoyingly popping up irrelevant messages to deleting files and destroying hard disks.

It is an oddity that a computer virus shows how vulnerable we are, by being victims of devastating consequences like disrupted productivity running into billions of dollars, while at the same time demonstrating the sophistication of our amazing interconnectivity. We all became aware what is a computer virus and what havoc it can do when the Mydoom worm infected nearly a quarter million computers in 2004. This worm affected Microsoft Windows, probably through e-mail spammers by sending junk mail through infected computers. In an extreme scenario, a computer virus can spread through most, if not all vital computers, in the world and wreak havoc for business organizations, financial establishments, government functioning, and academic institutions.

How Do Viruses Spread?

We now know what is a computer virus and so, it will be interesting to understand how do viruses spread. For a virus to spread it must first be triggered, for example, by the user visiting a potentially dangerous site, opening a document infected by a virus, booting with a diskette infected by a “boot sector virus,” or by double clicking on an infected executable file.

The Entire Process Works In The Following Way:

* A virus software program is launched
* The virus code is loaded into the PC memory
* The virus executes its destructive payload
* The virus replicates itself into other programs

If all a virus did was to replicate itself, then the harm caused would have been negligible, but unfortunately viruses do something far destructive like overwriting the boot sector of your hard drive, stealing your sensitive passwords, and hacking your e-mail ids.

What Are Trojan Horses?

As explained earlier, Trojans or Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but perform an undesired yet intended function, while at the same time pretending to do something else. A classic example is a fake log in program into a supposedly genuine bank site that prompts you to display your sensitive account information.

How Do You Protect Your Computer From Viruses?

To be safe, you simply need to load antivirus software. Once you buy and install antivirus software, you will be prompted to download regular updates that will allow the program to fight the latest computer viruses. A typical antivirus software performs the following functions:

* Scans and protects your computer against incoming e-mails
* Alerts you, if you attempt to download an infected file
* Prevents external attacks by firewall software

Fortunately, computer users do not feel jinxed with viruses these days. Antivirus products have become more advanced. People have understood that the problem of virus will stay forever, with newer versions making appearance, often with regular predictability. Happily, people will continue to use computers as long as there are people who can offer solutions.

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