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What You Need To Know About Computer Viruses.

There is much confusion about what exactly a computer virus is. To many people a virus is simply any kind of bad thing that happens to their computer. This would be more or less correct around 1995, but since then several other threats have appeared and using a blanket term like 'virus' for all of them is misleading. Having said that, I don't mean any disrespect to the word 'virus'. After all, it is the granddaddy of all malicious software (or malware for short).

Old School Viruses

At first viruses were rather simple-minded, although dangerous at times. All they wanted was to enter your computer and destroy some data. Their favorite way of transmission was to attach themselves to otherwise harmless programs.


Worms

As "state of the art" viruses developed, a new breed came to the scene: worms. This charming name is used to describe a type of virus that not only infects the host machine, but also replicates itself over the network. In practice that means that a well-written worm can create real mayhem around the world in a matter of days. It is estimated that damage from some famous worms reaches billions of dollars.

Trojan Horses

Many programs, multimedia or other goodies can be found on the Internet. Often they are free and, let's face it, there are very few things that people like more than free stuff. The trouble with some free software is that it also comes with one or more viruses already included free of charge. Hence the name "Trojan Horse".

Are viruses good for my computer?

Absolutely! If you want to get rid of all that data clogging up your hard drive, a virus is a wonderful solution. If you want your spanking new computer to slow down to a crawl, then a virus is the way to go. If you're lucky, you may even get a worm which will not only help you clean up your computer from all those annoying files, but will also send a copy of itself to all your friends that it finds in your Outlook address book. In short, if you think that your computer is too fast and gives you too little trouble, a virus or two can really help!

Thankfully, you don't have to try too hard to get a virus. Simply connect an unprotected computer to the Internet for a few hours and let them come. That's all it takes.

Tips on How to Protect Yourself

Truth be told, viruses are not as hot as they used to be. It turns out that there's not much money in writing them. This of course doesn't mean that you should neglect the virus threat. There are quite a few dangerous viruses roaming the Internet. So keep your hard drive happy and don't let the viruses ruin your day. Here is what you can do:

  • Use a good antivirus program and update it regularly. Unfortunately, some antivirus products inflict more damage than actual viruses do. So, before getting an antivirus program, be sure to read some professional reviews and user feedback.
  • If you download software from the Internet, use only reputable sources. Scan the installation file with an antivirus program before running it.
  • Be very careful about opening email attachments. Be particularly vigilant if you use Microsoft Outlook.

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Updated on August 26, 2012.