What is a Computer Virus?
Computer Viruses are malware that possess the capability to replicate themselves and modify other programs of the computer system by inserting their own code. They need a file or a document to spread and may not need user’s consent to replicate and spread infection. Viruses have the capability to modify the way your computer works or it may cause your system to stop working. Viruses are harmful and have the potential to corrupt or destroy system’s data.
How a Computer Virus differs from a Computer Worm?
A Computer Virus needs a host (like an application) to which it attaches and executes itself . It spreads from one computer to another in form of an executable file which could be possible with or without human intervention. It could also remain dormant until the user opens the file which it has infected or executes the program infected by it.
On the other hand, a Computer Worm is a malicious standalone program that replicates to spread to other computer systems. What differentiates a Computer Worm from a Computer Virus is that it requires a host program or human intervention for spreading. It resides in the infected system’s memory and take advantage of the vulnerability (or security failure) that might be present on the targeted system so as to gain access on the same. They are much faster than the computer virusesand do not aim to corrupt or modify the data and files that are present on the system. Computer Wormsbasically consume the bandwidth, install backdoor and slow down other tasks.
How do Computer Viruses spread?
The most commons ways for computer viruses to spread are:
- Via Spoofed Emails: Emails are one of the most common ways through which computer viruses spread. Emails can easily be spoofed and may appear to be from the legitimate sources, hence causing virus infections with the attachments . So, it is recommended to avoid opening attachments , if you are unaware of the source.
- Instant Messaging-Instant Messaging applications are one of the popular methods, through which the viruses spread. Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook Messenger and other instant messaging applications can be used to send malicious/infected links that may contain viruses. These applications are used to cause infections as it is easier to dupe people into clicking links that seem to be coming from the sources they trust.
- Infected Websites-Navigating to an infected website may cause infections to, your system. Various adult, gaming and other untrustworthy websites often install adware on the users’ systems which display constant pop-ups and advertisements on your system and browser. The redirects and ad-sponsored links often increases the chances for the user to encounter malware such as viruses and ransomware.
- Software Downloads from Malicious Sites-You must have seen aggressive pop-ups and advertisements, warning you for the non-existent malware (particularly a virus) and compelling you to download the particular “antivirus” in order to clean the infection !!. Users are generally tricked into believing these fake pop-ups and as soon as they install them, their devices get infected with malware and prevent the normal functions on the system. Viruses can spread from pirated media and also through the websites that offer free “downloads”.
- Social Media – Social Media is very popular and has become an integral part of our everyday life. But it has also become a major concern for people as they are often relaxed and do not pay attention to what they are downloading and clicking. Often virus infections take place when users click on the links they find on social media and forget to proceed with caution.
- Unpatched Software – Unpatched Software are one of the most common ways through which virus infections take place. There is a higher level of risk involved with the unpatched software (Unpatched software refers to the software and applications that have not been updated by the developer for the latest security updates) as the visibility to the vulnerabilities remains low and security holes are not plugged up.
- Infected Removable Storage Devices-Virus infections also take place through infected removable storage devices like the USB Drives. If the USB drive that you are using to transfer your data is infected with a virus, then it will infect your system too in absence of any reputable anti-virus program.
Symptoms of a Virus Infection on your Computer
Several symptoms might indicate the presence of virus infection on your computer such as:
- Your computer might run slow after it has been infected with a virus. Virus often causes the system to work slow as compared to how it worked previously
- A sudden dip in the system’s internet speed may also refer to virus attack on your system.
- If the system shows inconsistent behavior or stops responding and freezes, there are chances that it has been infected by a virus. Sudden crashes also indicate that you need to check for the presence of a virus on your system by running the anti-virus program.
- Presence of a virus on your computer may cause certain files or programs to go missing. If you find any unexplained data loss, then there are chances that the same has been deleted or encrypted by the virus that invaded your system. Also, you might find extra copies of your files being created without you doing the same, thereby indicating the presence of virus.
- Infections such as viruses often disable the security settings of your system. So, if you notice any changes in the firewall or anti-virus settings , then your system may have been affected .
- Problem in accessing the disk drives on the system should cause you to worry! If you cannot connect to the flash drive, you just plugged in to your computer or any of the drives when you clicked on My Computer, such symptoms clearly indicate that your system has been infected.
Steps of Protection against Viruses:
- It is very important that you remain cautious while clicking on any links sent to you over social media or to instant messaging applications by your acquaintances or friends. If you are confused, you should rather ask them if they really meant to send the same and this way you can save your system from getting infected.
- Don’t act in haste and open attachments from unverified emails. Spam emails are one of the most common ways to spread viruses and hence, it is advisable that you should not click on the links or download the attachments, until you are 100% sure about the authenticity of the particular email. It is important that you delete those spam emails immediately.
- Beware of the “Your PC is infected” Pop-Up – People often act in haste when they suddenly receive such pop-up on their system and quickly download such “fake antivirus” leading to malware infections.
- It is recommended that you should avoid the websites that appear questionable and download software/applications from trusted sources only. Often the freeware is bundled with viruses or browser hijackers that can cause serious damage to the system.
- Keeping the software or applications and especially the operating system updated, is one of the best ways to remain protected from any such virus infections that can create issues for you and your system ‘s security. Software or applications that are not updated regularly are the major sources through which a virus can infect, taking advantage of the security holes or vulnerabilities present in the system.
- Scan your USB Device before using them. After you plug in any of your USB Drives, the first thing you should do is scan them for they might be infected with viruses and can infect your system too. It is recommended that you should avoid the usage of auto run feature on your USB sticks or the memory cards so that you use them only after your anti-virus software properly scans them.
- Back up you data regularly. Often people ignore to obtain a regular and periodical backup of their data thereby causing data loss in case if malware infects their system. Viruses can delete or encrypt your data or files, hence securing a backup over external drives and cloud is one of the best practices you should follow.
- Invest in reputable and reliable anti-virus security. The most important thing to do in order to stay protected from viruses is to use a reliable and a reputable anti-virus software that can provide you constant protection from malware such as Trojans, viruses, worms or any other possible infections.