A computer virus is a software program that can reproduce itself and infect a computer. It can lay dormant for a specific period of time or it can become active creating real damage to a computer.

What is the typical way a virus infects a computer?

The various types of computer viruses (Source: TypesList.com) are spread in many ways including:

  • Attachments in email or instant messaging messages
  • Introduction via external media such as CDs, Diskettes, or USB Flash drives
  • Files downloaded from the Internet

A computer virus first replicates itself by relocating on a legitimate program (eg. Word.Exe)and then attaching or splicing a copy of it into the genuine program. The virus’s code (i.e. Instructions) becomes a part of the legitimate program. When the legitimate program is opened (i.e. placed in RAM) the virus may activate itself then or at a programmed time.

How do computer viruses work?

When a computer virus installs itself on a computer, it cause a number of problems ranging all the way from interrupting the computer operations, deleting files, changing the composition of files to even formatting the computers hard disk. Some computer viruses even gives one instructions such as downloading a certain program to fix a specific problem. These are really dangerous as they will do more damage to your computer than the initial virus itself. If unsure do a search on the software being offered and contact your computer support person for confirmation as to what action you should take.

Some of the more common problems is slowing the computer, not being able to save a document, critical files may be deleted periodically or it may happen all at once. In some instances the operation of hardware is affected with not being able to open the CD drive or it may open without direction from the user. There may be unusual sounds playing randomly and programs may start without direction from the user. Emails may also be affected with some not being sent or attachments being lost.

Viruses can duplicate files filling up the hard disk which may be a cause for the slow operation of the computer. Early location or detection of the virus is really important otherwise the computer may fill up and an antivirus program may not fit on the computer. Another insidious problem that may occur especially in this situation is the virus may block the user from accessing an antivirus software company for downloads so the virus can be eliminated. So early detection is vital!

Prevention is really important in protecting your computer. There are many software companies that provide access to antivirus free software giving you a free trial such as AVG and Norton. Most new computer comes with installed antivirus software while others comes with the software and it is up to the owner to install it.

Prevention of Computer Viruses

As a virus can attach itself to an email and often in attachments it is a good idea not to open any attachment unless you know the sender. Even then it is a good idea to save the file and then do a scan on it. Do not open an email if it has one or two words or looks a little strange. Just opening this email may cause problems. A good idea is to add it to the blocked list in the Junk Mail and then delete it.

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