What is a Virus
Many PC users are very afraid of viruses, but many of these same people may wonder what is a virus, exactly. In order to properly protect themselves from viruses, computer users need to know what viruses are and how to avoid them.
A Type of MalwareViruses are a type of malicious software, or malware. There are many types of viruses, and several ways in which they can affect a computer system. Some of them are harmless, but most are not. Viruses require some sort of action on the part of the user to run and propagate, such as opening an email attachment or downloading something from a malicious web site.
Often other types of malware are erroneously called viruses. Trojan Horses and worms, while nasty malicious programs, are not viruses. This may not seem like an important distinction, but if you know what sort of malware infection you have, it helps to eradicate it.
Like Biological VirusesWhen trying to wrap your head around what is a virus, it can be helpful to think of computer viruses in terms of viruses that people or animals contract. Any kind of virus replicates itself. Again, like a virus a person could be infected with, computer viruses often work to take over the system for a specific task, either by damaging other files or for spreading to other computers.
While viruses can cause a lot of problems, users often don’t know that their system is infected until it begins to malfunction or run slower, particularly when booting. Often viruses act stealthily, causing problems well before a computer user can notice there is an infection. Most system interference from viruses isn’t intended; usually they are a result of the malware being quickly and poorly written so that errors start to develop over time.
ProtectionThere are a lot of viruses, but a computer user can avoid infection. The best way to stay uninfected would be to stay offline altogether, but that probably isn’t a realistic request.
With antivirus protection, like PCKeeper, Kaspersky or Norton, most viruses will be blocked before they are downloaded. Virus protection finds and eliminates the virus before it causes any real damage, but this only works if the software is actually used. Antivirus software needs to be updated regularly, and it should be used often to scan for viruses, both manually and automatically.
There are other things a user should do to keep viruses away. Users should only download files and programs from reputable known sources. Program files (.exe) received via email, even from someone known should not be downloaded or opened if unsolicited.
ConclusionViruses, like all malware, can be very damaging to a computer system. Because of how much trouble they can cause, all users need to know what is a virus and how it can infect their system. In addition, all users should have antivirus software on their PCs, and should use those programs along with other methods to keep their computer safe and virus-free.
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