Every year, millions of households in the United States experience serious problems from computer viruses. In addition to numerous malicious tools all over the internet, viruses are so far the number one threat.
Computer viruses have been around for quite some time and they are here to ruin not only any household systems but also the corporate IT infrastructures. They have been the main culprit of stolen personal information, sending unwanted emails, spying in on sensitive details and so much more.
But what exactly is a computer virus? How does it really work?
What is a Virus and How Does it Work?
Let’s take a deeper look at what a computer virus is. In layman terms, this is unwanted malicious programs that have the ability to install themselves onto your computer, self-replicate by copying itself to another program and as a result, it will cause a range of damage, from the very minor to the total loss of your computer data.
One great way to describe viruses is calling them “malware” or software programs that come with malicious intent. Imagine how flu works! Think about yourself leaving your home unprotected, you hop into a crowded train full of people infected with flu, breathing the same air. All of a sudden you noticed your eyes are now bloodshot, you feel burning like you are being microwaved alive and you now have trouble functioning properly.
Computer viruses are just like flu. If you are one of the unlucky enough to catch one, you can expect havoc to be wrecked on your hard disk like a slower performance of your PC, destroyed or damaged files and a lot more in between.
How Does A PC Virus Spread?
In the previous years, viruses were spread via either email attachments or floppy diskettes. However, with the expansion of the World Wide Web or commonly known as internet today, it paves a way to a plethora of methods to spread and unfortunately, infect systems.
Your system today can be easily infected with virus through:
- Malicious links that you may receive from your email. Email is definitely among the favorite way of transport for every computer virus. One way to get viruses through your email is by opening the attachment that is most likely named as somewhat seems to be harmless but ends up to be a program file that is executable. So don’t ever open an email attachment without knowing what exactly it is. Take note that cybercriminals will often rely on your natural curiosity so they can spread viruses. There are also emails that come with a compromised body in the guise of colorful, rich graphics HTML body. Fortunately, a lot of email services today that by default disable HTML, you still need to confirm that it’s a sender that you trust.
- Infected files you download from Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing clients. P2P file sharing software program or services such as Dropbox, ShareFile, Google Drive, etc., are also being used to transmit viruses. So as soon as someone accidentally uploads an infected file to certain file-sharing account, the virus will now be easily downloaded by everyone else who will try to access the shared folder.
- Instant Messaging services. Instant Messaging services, like Facebook Messenger or Skype, is even another way for viruses to get in your computer. They can be unintentionally used by your contacts who doesn’t know they are already spreading viruses through infected links that they are sending via chat messages. Unfortunately, instant messaging, as well as viruses from social media, can widely spread and much faster since it is a lot easier to let people click on certain link whenever the virus is delivered in disguise as a message from a contact they trust, unlike to those emails sent by strangers.
- Viruses you can download from software. You are also susceptible to downloading viruses through a downloadable software from malicious pop-up ads or websites. Have you noticed persistent pop-ups that scare you into assuming that there’s an existing virus being detected in your PC and compelling you that you should download this company’s antivirus software so you can eliminate this threat? Fake antivirus warnings are used at an alarming rate to spread viruses through downloads. But rather than getting rid of the virus in your computer, this bogus antivirus will only infect your computer with malware that comes with distressing consequences to your hard drive, files as well as personal information.
- Vulnerable or unpatched software. Unpatched software is another common way to spread virus yet this is often overlooked. Unpatched software includes apps and software that are outdated or were not properly patched to prevent attacks with the most recent security updates. This means that criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities of not updated versions of popular programs like Adobe Reader, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, etc. Unpatched software is becoming the topmost cybersecurity problem for most organizations and businesses.
This is why you have to be more careful of what you download from the internet or what links you will access or else your system may easily be compromised by a virus and as a result, your existing data, a personal identity like financial details can likely be at big risk.
There are actually various computer viruses and each virus has been built for a specific reason. There are some that have been designed to damage system, like for example a virus that results to an unexpected system crash.