Every computer user needs to be aware of viruses and the risks they pose. Once a machine has been infected with a virus, it can do all sorts of damage, from deleting and changing files to letting hackers have access to your machine and sharing your personal details, including contact and bank information, with other users.
This guide will take a full, comprehensive look at viruses, including what they are, how they work, and what you can do to stop them.
What is a computer virus?
A computer virus, as the name implies, works a lot like a virus in the physical world. In the same way that a flu virus infects one person and then passes to others, a computer virus is designed to move between computers and networks, multiplying again and again.
And just like a flu virus or other kind of infectious virus, a computer virus can do a lot of damage once it infects a machine. In technical terms, it’s little more than a program or piece of computer code, and can seem so simple and small on the outside, but once it attaches itself to your files and system, it can have all kinds of terrible effects.
How do computer viruses work?
The ultimate aim for any computer virus is to infect a machine. Once the virus gets into your system, which can occur in various ways, such as through downloads on untrustworthy sites or by clicking seemingly innocent links in your email inbox, it will attach itself to a program, file, or document, hidden away and almost invisible to the user.
When you open up the infected file or program, you’ll inadvertently launch the virus too, allowing it to infect your computer fully and put the effects of its code into action. These effects can vary wildly. Some viruses are relatively harmless, designed more for the amusement of the creator than to cause any real damage, but others can have disastrous consequences, from corrupting your files to stealing your passwords or even taking over your computer entirely.
Types of computer viruses
There are many different types of computer viruses, and when we talk about viruses, we also often have to think about malware too, which can take a range of additional forms. All of these different programs and pieces of code are designed to infect devices and have unwanted effects. Here are some common types of viruses to look out for:
- Resident – A resident virus is one that infects your system’s memory and can modify or affect various operations and functions throughout your system.
- Multipartite – This kind of virus spreads out and infects the entire system, performing various actions beyond the user’s control.
- Direct Action – This form of virus is targeted, aimed at having a specific effect on a specific type of file.
- Browser Hijacker – This kind of virus is able to infect your web browser and automatically take you to sites you didn’t ask to visit.
- File Injector – This one can target executable files, and when launched, it slows down your system and may even make it almost unusable.
- Network – A network virus is able to pass beyond your computer into other devices connected to the same network.
Signs your device may be infected
If you’re worried about possible infections on your machine, here are some of the key signs that viruses may be present:
- Slow Performance – Many viruses will slow down your computer, making simple tasks take a lot longer and potentially causing your computer’s fans to make loud noises.
- Crashes – If your computer keeps crashing and shutting down without any obvious reasons, viruses may be to blame.
- Pop-Ups – Many viruses will cause pop-up windows to appear all over your screen, encouraging you to visit sites or download files.
- Browser Changes – You may have a virus if your browser is suddenly taking you to a different homepage or using a different search function.
Get the ultimate protection against computer viruses
Viruses can do a lot of damage, not just to your computers and other devices, but to your entire life. In the worst case scenario, they can help hackers and cybercriminals get their hands on your personal details, files, and even your payment information, able to use your credit cards or effectively steal your identity. That’s why it’s so important to take action now.
The best antivirus software can keep you safe from viruses, eliminating threats and preventing them infecting your machine.