What is a computer virus?

Computer viruses are programs created and designed to wreak havoc. Computer viruses are aptly named, since they mimic real viruses by reproducing themselves and infecting multiple programs and computer systems.These viruses can be harmless—a silly message or image that does no damage—or they can complete erase your hard drive, infect other’s computers, and essentially take over your computer system. 

Even the harmless viruses are meant to annoy, even if they aren’t destructive. Viruses can spread through emails, IMs, and downloads. Therefore, do not download files or open emails or IMs from sources you don’t know or trust.

Types of Viruses

There are many different types of computer viruses. The most harmful is malware. Malware is short for malicious software, and is inherently damaging.  This virus works behind the scenes, and is often hard to detect. Criminals use malware to steal personal information (credit card information, banking information, etc.) or send spam. There are lots of types of malware, but the most destructive are spyware (a type of malware that steals and corrupts a person’s private information) and ransomware (a type of malware which can limit or restrict a person’s access to their own files until they pay a fee to the creator of the virus).

Adware is a type of virus that uses advertisements (commonly banners on your web browser or pop-ups) with the end goals of collecting marketing data about you or tricking you into opening the advertiser’s web page. Adware is most often just a distraction or an annoyance—not truly harmful. Adware is often placed on free versions of programs (like Pandora), which can be removed if you upgrade to the licensed version of the program. Be careful, because it is often hard to determine whether adware is harmless or not—sometimes spyware is embedded in these advertisements, so it is best not to click on the ads.

Getting rid of viruses (or better yet, preventing them) can be done with anti-virus software. There are many versions of this kind of software available, so it is beneficial to speak with your IT support to find which will work best for your business. Read through some of our other blogs to learn how you can further protect yourself and your business from viruses: Shield Your System, Is Your Company Data at Risk?, and Top 5 Password Mistakes