What Is A Computer Virus?

We are often asked what the difference is between a computer virus, malware, worm, Trojan etc. Here, we will try to explain what a computer virus is and how it operates and effects the infected computer.

A computer virus is a malware program that, when executed replicates by inserting copies of itself and can modify itself into other computer programs, data files, or the boot sector of the hard drive. Viruses primarily perform some type of harmful activity on infected hosts, such as stealing hard drive space or CPU time, accessing private information, corrupting data, displaying messages on the user's screen, spamming their contacts, logging their keystrokes, or even rendering the computer useless. While a few viruses are harmless diversions, most are malicious and cause widespread damage and may bring down an entire network. Some are immediately active, others lay dormant for a period of time or work quietly to avoid detection. The defining characteristic of viruses is that they are self-replicating computer programs which install themselves without user consent.

Virus writers use social engineering and exploit security vulnerabilities to gain access to their hosts' computing resources. The vast majority of viruses target systems running some version of Microsoft Windows operating system employing a variety of mechanisms to infect new hosts, and use sophisticated strategies to evade detection. Motives for creating viruses began, just be an annoyance or to expose a vulnerability. However the landscape has changed, and contemporary authors have their hearts set on profit. Some of the newer virus are set on sabotage and denial of service, better known as Ransomware. They will hold your computer or worse yet your data hostage threatening to delete or encrypt the data unless you pay a ransom. The one that strikes fear in the heart of every IT department is the crypto-locker or crypto-wall virus (later we will devote another article just on ransomware).

We all know too well how hard it is to keep a computer working well when all is well. You throw a virus in the mix and you can render a computer useless. Therefore preventing these attacks or infections is much easier than the cure. There are many anti-virus programs that scan and prevent such programs from ever installing themselves on your system. It’s recommended that you install anti-virus software on all of your devices – including PCs, Laptops, Macs and Smartphones – and that your anti-virus solution receives regular updates, in order to protect against the latest threats. A good anti-malware software product – will detect and prevent virus and worm infections on your systems.