In Cyber Safety, The Digital World

What is a Computer Virus and What Does it Do?

Millions of people each year are infected with a computer virus of some sort, and they do not even know what it is or what it does. Let’s explain these things simply and learn how to protect ourselves from one.

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is basically a piece of detrimental code that has the capability to copy itself and corrupt a program or an entire system, or even destroy data.

You can come into contact with a virus just with everyday use on your computer. If you already have an anti-virus program installed, then some viruses you may have caught may have already been stopped before they can wreak havoc. Learn more about viruses and what they can do to your computer from the Safety & Security Center on Microsoft.com.

Even if you have an anti-virus program, you should be concerned that the virus may leak or plow through your firewall and delete or corrupt the data on your computer. These things are so powerful that they can even attach themselves to your email and corrupt other computers on the network, and even completely erase your hard drive.

Computer viruses are commonly spread through attachments in:

  • email messages
  • instant messaging

This is why it is imperative that you do not open unknown email attachments, since that is the number one way how people inherit viruses. Viruses tend to be disguised as:

  • funny images
  • greeting cards
  • audio files
  • video files

You can also download a virus through un-seeming files or programs that you download from the internet.

Virus types and what they do

What is a Trojan Horse?

According to Kaspersky.com, a Trojan horse or Trojan is a type of malware that is often disguised as legitimate software. It is usually a non-replicating malware program containing code that is malicious when executed. This virus carries out the actions demanded by the nature of the Trojan virus, and this is what typically causes loss or theft of data. This virus can also cause harm to your system.

This virus is named after the Trojan Horse that was used to trick the ancient city of Troy into accidentally allowing warriors to come into the city via a large wooden horse that the Trojans thought was meant to symbolize they had won the battle.

This virus will essentially do the same thing. It will trick the user into downloading the software while actually harboring the virus. The user is technically at fault since they downloaded the virus by assuming it was a program.

What is Malware?

“Malware” is essentially short for “malicious software”. This is a singular term that is used to refer to a virus, spyware, a worm or other types of malicious software.

Malware is a virus that is designed to cause significant damage to a stand-alone computer or a PC hooked up to a network. This page on PCWorld.com explains malware further.

What is the FBI virus?

The FBI virus is malware that can infect both Macs and PCs. The FBI virus will “lock” your computer screen and your internet browsers, giving you a fake message that is supposedly from the FBI. This message asks for you to pay a fine that doesn’t actually exist.

You can pay this “fine” with a Greendot MoneyPak voucher. Then your computer will be infected with a virus alternately known as Trojan Urausy.

How to Deal with A Virus

The best way to deal with a computer virus is to avoid it altogether. To help avoid computer viruses:

  • Your computer should be kept current with the latest updates and antivirus tools
  • You should stay informed and abreast of recent threats
  • You need to run your computer only as a standard user (not as Administrator)
  • You should follow safety procedures whenever you surf the web, download files or open email attachments

Once a virus has infected your computer, there is nothing more important than removing it and protecting your computer from future infections and threats. Some people like to look up the type of virus or what method to use to eliminate it, but the bottom line is that you need to get the virus removed to save your computer from damage.

Some viruses work in layers and use different methods to slowly corrupt your computer, while others are fast and completely shut down everything altogether. In all cases, always stay protected with a quality anti-virus software.

What is the best anti-virus software?

The best and most recommended anti-virus software, as per the experts, are in the following numerical descending order:

  1. AhnLab V3 Internet Security
  2. Panda Global Protection
  3. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete
  4. Avira Free Antivirus
  5. Qihoo 360 Internet Security
  6. Lookout Security & Antivirus
  7. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium
  8. Bullguard Internet Security
  9. F-Secure Safe
  10. Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security
  11. eScan Total Security Suite
  12. Kaspersky PURE 3.0 Total Security review
  13. G Data TotalProtection
  14. Bitdefender Total Security
  15. Symantec Norton 360

These programs were all graded on whether or not they:

  • will slow down your PC or laptop
  • are easy to use
  • are intrusive and to what extent they are
  • are the best antivirus for protection
  • are the best antivirus for performance
  • are the best antivirus for value

What is the best protection for Windows?

Windows actually comes with pre-installed Windows Defender and so far, the software seems to be satisfactory. The free antivirus program is supposedly easy to use and is expected to “provide excellent malware removal”, however, the experts think that the software will have difficulty detecting malware in the first place. This article on HowToGeek.com talks more about Windows Defender and sheds light on its pros and cons.

If your Windows PC comes does come with a third-party antivirus pre-installed, it is recommended that you check the program’s ranking. If the pre-installed program does not rank in the top best software, you should think about opting out of this program and using another option.

If you want to opt out of Windows Defender, you can download a free antivirus program. Some popular ones are offered by:

  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Panda
  • Avira

Or, if you would like a program with better protection and more expansive features, you should consider buying a program from one of the top software vendors, including:

  • G Data
  • Symantec (Norton)
  • Bitdefender
  • Kaspersky

Understanding viruses is tricky work, and is not always foolproof. You can learn more about it in our article Get Some Virus Protection Today. If your computer is open to viruses, you will risk losing all of your data and maybe even your hard drive, and you will be forced to buy another computer. Make sure to get the best anti-virus software that is right for you and your budget (if it’s not free) to continue to protect the longevity of your computer, as well as your sanity.

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