What Are Computer Viruses?

Computer Virus Definition

Computer viruses are small and malicious software programs that interfere with the normal operation of a computer. They are spread from computer to computer by several different techniques. They may be spread through infected e-mail attachments, through malicious websites that utilize exploit kits to perform drive-by installations on unsuspecting website visitor's computers, and also through infected audio, video and application downloads. A computer virus can perform the same functions that legitimate programs perform, but they are primarily used today to :

  1. To attack various organizations and corporations utilizing distributed denial of service attacks (ddos)
  2. To interfere with the normal operation of computer user's systems by limited their access to data files or simply erasing the files
  3. They are used for spying. Competing companies may infect one another in an attempt to obtain sensitive information from the competition. An un secure spouse may use a virus to spy on their significant other.
  4. Online hackers also use viruses to obtain sensitive user bank account and credit card information to make fraudulent purchases in someone else's name.

Computer viruses are constructed by individuals, companies and also governments. And they have been around just as long as computers have been in existence. In the early days viruses were simple and performed only basic functions, such as deleting, moving, or renaming user data. Today though they have become very complex and exceedingly hard to detect in the early stages of an infection. Microsoft Windows based computers get the largest amount of computer virus infections, but only because they have the largest amount of market share. Macintosh computers acquire viruses also, but only a small fraction of the viruses that Microsoft Windows based systems do.

There are many techniques that you can use to protect your computer from viruses. The first approach is to be careful with external usb drives. Usb drives spread infections very easily. And since they may be used in several computers back and forth, they could easily contain malicious programs that may cause harm to your data. The second approach is to install a reputable anti-virus utility and keep it updated. The third is to install a good firewall, such as ZoneAlarm. And the forth technique is to simply pay close attention to how your computer performs. If it becomes slow, your applications start crashing, the desktop wallpaper changes unexpectedly, if it displays pop-ups, or you notice excessive hard drive activity when your computer is not in use, then it would be a good idea to perform a deep scan of your data files with an anti-virus utility. But always remember that nothing is fool proof. Computer viruses are constantly changing and so are the techniques that are used to spread them.

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