What is a computer virus? Here’s how to spot signs of viruses and avoid them

Laptop computer virus corruption

Summary List Placement

Now that personal computers have been a part of everyday life for about 30 years, computer viruses aren’t as mysterious as they once were. Simply put, a virus is a kind of malware that has the ability to replicate itself. Once activated, it can install itself on a computer, infecting the PC and enabling the virus to continue to spread to other computers. 

Depending upon its payload, the virus can have no other effect on the PC other than copying itself, or it can be designed to cause a wide variety of damages — anything from holding the files on the computer for ransom (this is called ransomware) to deleting files, crippling Windows, or turning the computer into a resource for hackers to conduct distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. 

What you need to know about computer viruses

Viruses have been around for decades (the first virus was created in 1971) and is so synonymous with the concept of malware that some people refer to any malware as a virus. That’s not really true — there are many kinds of malware, and viruses are just one. 

Unlike other kinds of malware, a virus lies dormant until it’s activated — it’s unable to execute itself on its own. (This is in contrast to a worm, for example, which can execute on its own with no human intervention. That means you might accidentally download a virus to your PC, but it won’t do anything until you run the file or open the document it’s embedded in. 

At that time, the virus’ code is activated, it can execute its payload, which might include stealing passwords, emailing itself to the contacts in your address book, or taking over your PC in a ransom attack. 

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There are a number of different kinds of viruses you can be infected with. While this might seem unimportant — why should it matter since you’re already infected — it’s important to know since each virus can affect your PC differently. Here are the most common varieties:

Boot sector virus: A boot sector virus can take complete control of your PC by infecting the part of the hard drive that has startup instructions. 

Polymorphic virus: This kind of virus is especially insidious because it can vary its code, making it hard for antivirus software to detect and remove. Modern antivirus software is pretty good at detecting polymorphic viruses, but is far from perfect. 

Web scripting virus: This virus specifically targets vulnerabilities in web browsers, but the virus doesn’t stay there — it can be designed to affect all aspects of your computer. 

Macro virus: Thankfully less of a threat than it once was, macro viruses are written in the “macro” language used to create scripts within programs like Microsoft Word and Excel. When a document with an infected macro is executed, it can do many malicious things to the PC.

File infector virus: These viruses have the ability to inject malicious code into other programs and documents. 

How to spot signs of a virus

The symptoms of a computer virus can …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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