Computer Virus: What You Need to Know

Most people have heard of a computer virus before. There are countless kinds of viruses, but almost all of them harm your computer or device. Read up on what a virus, and its many variations, are and what they do in this article and to reiterate computer virus protection.

What Is A Computer Virus?

A computer virus is used to refer to malicious code written with the intent of altering a computer’s basic operations. By design, most spread from one device to another, impacting entire networks of technology. The virus attaches itself to a legitimate program, document, or attachment to get the user to download and execute it. Once executed, the virus damages the computer system and the data and files on it.

Computer viruses can stay dormant for long periods of time. But once they start causing damage, they typically don’t stop. Getting ahead and making sure it can’t spread farther is key to the safety of your computer and others on the same computer network. Viruses can steal passwords, change up data, log keystrokes, corrupt files, or worse.

Types Of A Computer Virus

The term “computer virus” is broad. There are several different classes of computer viruses and malware, and beyond that, countless specific viruses that have affected computer users over the years. Here are a few common types of a computer virus that you might encounter.

Resident computer virus

A resident virus gets into a computer's memory and remains dormant until delivering a payload. The term ‘payload’ refers to the part of the computer virus that causes harm, whatever that harm may be; in other words, the virus stays dormant until it’s time for it to execute its actions. A user's actions trigger the resident virus into action, or it even programmed to simply stay dormant until a specific date or time.

Polymorphic virus

Polymorphic viruses are file infectors that can create modified versions of itself on its own. This helps it avoid detection. They use encryption keys to vary their physical file makeup, making it extremely difficult for traditional security programs to catch them because their code is frequently changing. Hackers use polymorphic code to avoid detection, too.

Boot sector virus

A boot sector virus attempts to harm the drive’s boot sector, which is the section responsible for directing the operating system so that it can connect into the interface. This makes the boot sector unusable, which then makes the entire computer or device unusable as well. Boot sector viruses are typically spread via malicious USB drives. They get activated when the user plugs in the USB device and boots up their computer.

Web browser hijacker virus

Browser hijackers are capable of altering a computer’s browser settings to redirect users to malicious sites rather than their saved favorites or home page. The sites that the browser hijacker attacks turn into adware or phishing sites, which steal important data from users.

Direct action virus

Direct action viruses cause immediate damage. When a user downloads a seemingly harmless file, it may have malicious code attached; in these cases, the direct action viruses get to work. Much like resident viruses, direct action viruses can remain dormant in a device until a certain time.

Macro virus

A macro virus embeds itself in Word documents or other word processors. It can either embed on its own or be downloaded from a phishing email. Because they don’t cause harm until the user runs the file, they are difficult to detect on an infected computer, much like Trojan viruses.

The above list only a few types of a computer virus, but there are many more developed every day.  It is best to research the types of computer virus you may have and do some research on any type of removal you can do, and always setup a computer virus protection.

What Does A Computer Virus Do?

A computer virus doesn’t act in one specific way. Its ultimate goal is to damage the device it’s implemented on, but can attack any technological device. Depending on the virus, a computer can be mildly affected or completely unusable.

Viruses are able to damage programs, delete or alter files on a computer, clear out a hard drive, and affect system performance. If a virus usually controlled by a hacker, ultimately used to gain access to your private information, passwords, bank numbers, and more.

Some viruses, like distributed denial of service Trojans, take over computers not to get to that specific device but to turn the device into part of a botnet for attacks on a larger scale. They spread, some coded that way, while others ultimately shared accidentally via emails or email attachments. Keeping up with antivirus software is critical to help get rid of any viruses, big or small, that your computer obtains.

Symptoms Of A Computer Virus

Just like a person starts sneezing or gets an itch in their throat with the common cold, your computer also experiences strange symptoms if it’s been infected. Keep an eye out for these indicators of a virus on your device.

You get a lot of pop-ups, both on your desktop and browsing the web.

Some popups are completely innocent. But if you notice a jump in frequency, think twice. These pop-ups claim to notify you of a breach in your computer security.

In reality, however, these pop-ups only offer an avenue for more malware to affect you. If you click them, they’ll take you to malicious websites or infect your device further.

You notice strange emails or messages sent from your accounts.

Sometimes, in an attempt to spread, viruses can send emails or messages to other people on your contact list. It’s possible you wouldn’t notice at first, since most people don’t check their “Sent” folders regularly. However, if someone tells you they received a strange message from you, check into it.

Your computer is incredibly slow.

Every device stops working sometime, and it’s no surprise that old computers start to slow down. But you know your computer, and you know how fast it can operate. If you’ve noticed a significant decrease in your computer’s response times, even when you only have a few programs open, it could mean you have a virus.

Your computer crashes frequently or has the “blue screen of death.”

Again, no computer is perfect, but if your device starts to crash frequently, this is a red flag. Viruses can overload a computer’s system to the point of nonfunction. If you notice that your device seems to have no memory, this is another red flag. Run a virus scan with your security software to find out if that’s the issue.

Preventing Computer Viruses

When a virus infects your device or files, the results range from annoying to devastating. It depends on what kind of virus you have; your computer could just slow down or you could completely lose files for good. The best course of action to prevent a virus is to take the time to get antivirus software installed on your device. There are many free antivirus software programs available, or if you want stronger protection, there are paid plans that you can invest in. This serves as the first - and strongest - layer of defense against viruses. However, it's also important to keep basic Internet safety in mind. Avoid shady websites and only search on secure browsers. Don't click on links sent to you by unknown users on social media. These easy steps go a long way in preventing viruses from attacking your device.

Viruses are tricky. But avoiding them, along with other types of malware like computer worms, keyloggers, and Trojan horses, is possible. Getting computer virus protection is key; remain vigilant to protect yourself and your information.  There are many software programs available to accomplish computer virus protection.